By this point in the semester, it is pretty clear that design is an important part of our daily lives. From the cars we drive to the places we work, our surroundings are being touched by design and human factors considerations. So, it should not be too much of a surprise to learn that design and the user experience play important roles in wine drinking. How? Mainly in the debate of screw top versus cork.
This controversy, in the minds of wine-drinkers, has to deal with tradition versus practicality. But, when one considers the issue from a human factors perspective, it becomes about the user experience versus product performance. Truth be told, it is difficult to say which should win.
Corked wine represents a pleasurable user experience. It is the experience of using a corkscrew to twist the cork out of a wine bottle and be rewarded with a quintessential “POP.” The bottle provides feedback to the user, letting him or her know that the bottle has been successfully opened. But it is also a pleasurable experience. As written in an NPR article addressing this debate, one wine connoisseur is quoted saying “[the uncorking of a wine] is part of the ceremony.” (Aubrey, 2014) There is something undeniable about the experience of uncorking a wine that adds to a user’s satisfaction.
If wine corks are about promoting a satisfactory user experience, screw tops are intended for both ease and practicality. Though they may represent a more modern take on the wine-drinking experience, screw tops also have a lot of practical uses that may make them better than wine corks. First, screw tops prevent oxygen from leaking into an opened bottle, preserving the freshness of the wine. (Aubrey, 2014) Second, they are much easier to use than their corky counterparts. Anyone can unscrew a bottle of wine, whereas uncorking a bottle requires a special tool and, in many cases, a great deal of strength. Last, screw tops are more durable than the average wine cork. Unlike corks, screw tops do not crumble into a bottle and ruin the wine.
One has to look at the debate of cork versus screw top wine as a debate over something larger: do we value a satisfactory experience or a practical and efficient experience more?
Aubrey, Allison. (January 2, 2014) Cork Versus Screw Cap: Don’t Judge a Wine by How its Sealed. National Public Radio. Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/01/02/259128689/cork-versus-screw-cap-dont-judge-a-wine-by-how-its-sealed
Starbard, Maggie. (2014) Screw Top Wines. Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/01/02/259128689/cork-versus-screw-cap-dont-judge-a-wine-by-how-its-sealed