I don't know where you stand on the issue of screw-top wine bottles but, to my mind, this development is in the same category as the disbandment of the Black Watch, the replacement of the school skirt with trousers, and the introduction of ID cards - all measures that have been proposed as modernisation in our best interests, but which still make our hearts sink. The truth is that screw tops are scientifically proven to be better. Yet despite this, I am depressed at the prospect of my favourite Burgundy featuring a metal cap instead of a cork. God knows how all those people feel who invested a hundred quid in a hydraulic corkscrew in a velvet-lined box. They must be gutted.
My objection to the screw top is not just to do with the ritual of opening the wine (although there is something particularly sexy about a French waiter wielding a waiter's friend). What I regret is the attempt to improve on something that works on so many levels besides the purely functional. Apart from the aesthetic appeal of a cork - especially half-jammed into a bottle that's been opened - there is the pleasure of extracting it, the satisfying thwock as it emerges, and the sense of having opened something that cannot be resealed and therefore must be drunk down to the last drop. I pity the poor students who will never know the joy of getting into a bottle, when half-cut, using the handle of a knife and brute force, and all those who will never have the heart-in-mouth "I think it's corked" exchange with an intimidating wine waiter. There may be a time and a place for a screw-top Cloudy Bay (perhaps at a beach bar in Umhlanga Rocks in the company of Prince Harry and Chelsy), but a bottle that looks like it has emerged from a dusty cellar or the high back shelf of a Spanish bar is a far superior experience.
You could argue that, by next Christmas, we'll all be amazed that we put up with corks for so long. But that is not the way our culture is moving in general. In the past 18 months or so, we have seen a return to "slow" food and traditional materials such as sheepskin (what is the Ugg boot phenomenon if not a kick in the face of technology?), and a move away from up-to-the-minute pharmaceutical cures towards homoeopathy. Cigar clubs are back, as are 1930s-style cocktail bars and Mary Poppins. Classic underwear is having a revival - complete with suspender belts and awkward-to-wash lacy trims - just at the stage when we should be Velcroing ourselves into Lycra body suits. And this Christmas, while there will be iPods on our wish lists, there'll also be books on how to bake bread, Welsh wool blankets, tweedy fashion items and real jewellery (none of your scary antennae stuff, thanks). We've reached a point where the principle of a good old-fashioned cork is more appealing to many than the promise of a perfect wine. Funny, that.