Wine could help cure writers block and make you more creative

Every poet and writer in history seemed to have been fuelled by alcohol in one shape or another, and previously we've all just written it off as a danger of the job.

But could alcohol actually boost creativity?

In research published last month in the journal Consciousness & Cognition, a group of Austrian scientists have demonstrated that a glass of beer (or indeed wine) can help to boost abstract thinking and improve creative problem-solving.

Led by Dr Mathias Benedek from the University of Graz, the research team tested the cognition of a group of 70 participants using blind trials. Half of the group drank non-alcoholic beer, the others full-strength, with tests administered before and after drinking.

The results showed a particular increase amongst the full-strength drinkers in a 'Remote Associations Test' - which shows the ability to creatively link three unrelated words.

Of course, there has to be a downside, and the drinkers also scored lower in 'executive control', which means that some of their organisational skills might be impaired. A price worth paying?

As Benedek explained in an interview with The Independent, this 'might well work for someone who is sitting down to do creative writing or brainstorming ideas in a boardroom.'

The study also notes that the benefits are likely to be limited to very modest amounts of alcohol. Still, it does make it even easier to justify pouring yourself a glass next time you're in need of inspiration...

How do you open a bottle of Champagne?

How do you open a bottle of Champagne?

Deep down inside, we're all F1 drivers.

Sometimes, when you pick up a bottle of Champagne, you just can't help but get a little carried away, imagining that you're standing on a podium, wreath wrapped around your neck, trophy in hand, with that bottle of fizz just aching to be sprayed over an adoring crowd.

Or maybe that's just me.

Most of the time, however, we don't want to be covering anyone in fizz, preferring to aim the liquid towards our glass instead (crazy talk).

So how do you open a bottle of Champagne?

Ideally you want to open a bottle of bubbly the right way - i.e., with as little mess and sound as possible. Why the lack of noise? Well, classically when opening sparkling wine it was considered the pinnacle of service to open it without any pop at all. Just that refreshing gurgle as it pours into the glass.

The quest to achieve such noiseless perfection starts with how you hold it. Firstly, you need to grab the bottle by the scruff of the neck. Ahh, hold on, just grab the bottle. Then, the next thing is to place your hand over the top of the metal cage (aka the muselet) and aim the bottle away from your face/friend's face/anything breakable. This is a safety precaution as Champagne corks travel at up to 40km/h

Next step is to remove the muselet. Intriguingly, the universal number of turns that the wire cage requires to undo is 6 turns (or 3 1/2 half turns). Always. Sounds odd, doesn't it? Some more info about exactly why it's 6 is here

At this stage, it is important to keep the bottle pointed away, and one hand on the top (again, safety). One hand on the cork/muselet, one on the bottle. Next - and this is the clincher - you want to turn the bottle, not the cork. It sounds odd, but trust me, this allows for much better control. While turning, keep the cork pressed into the bottle as hard as possible - a move that also allows for more control.

Finally, as you feel the cork start naturally 'popping' out of the bottle, you want to slow it right down to get that all important non-sound. Press down, and slowly - as slow as possible - ease the cork out of the bottle. Then hey-presto! Out comes the cork without any sound and you look like a pro (and without anyone losing an eye/spilling any Champagne)!

Of course, if you'd like to know more about Champagne and sparkling wine, come along to one of our tastings today! All the details can be found right here

P.S. There is another, much more dramatic way to open a bottle of Champagne that involves a sword. We'll get to that in a subsequent post.

(Photo by Ginny)

Have you ever struggled to open a wine bottle?

When you think about it, opening a bottle of wine can be seriously hard work.

Whether it is sharp and/or heavy foil capsules, corks stuck fast in the neck of a bottle, screwcaps that refuse to budge or unwieldy muselets, it is quickly apparent that so much of our wine packaging is just not that easy to use – and particularly if you are less ‘able’.

We tend, however, to accept these things as ‘part of the ritual’ and, with the aid of cursing and technology, just work on through to drinking the wine. But I’m interested to know, is this a problem we’re missing, especially in the context of an ageing population (and its increased levels of disability)?

What inspired this train of thought was my own struggles with a DIAM sparkling cork.

While I don’t have a disability (I’m fighting fit really), I do have psoriatic arthritis – a condition associated with joint stiffness and inflammation. Thankfully my arthritis is only very mild, and especially so when compared to 15 years ago when it was debilitating (I used to wake up in the morning and be unable to straighten my fingers without pain). But it is enough that I get pain in my hands, and makes opening jars and such an occasional nightmare.

The challenge then with DIAM sparkling corks is their inflexibility. For someone like me, the lack of ‘give’ in a DIAM cork means that you can’t wriggle them out of a bottle properly. Normal corks are fine (as they’re flexible) but me and DIAM usually have fighting words.

Now this is just me, but it does beg the question about how many others out there are fighting with stiff DIAM cork?

It’s not just DIAM sparkling corks either. I watched a similarly fit and able friend struggling to open a bottle of white wine sealed with a screwcap recently, the cap eventually yielding with the whole sleeve attached. Now that is apparently a bottling fault (incorrect torque settings), but I’m often amazed at how tight screwcaps can be. And wax seals? Almost impossible to deal with if you have hand dexterity issues, requiring cutting and brute force to get out corks waxed in there.

The interesting part is that while other industries have approached the challenges of packaging by making them easier to use (have a read about why packaging matters here and here), it seems that wine lags behind. Quite a few Australian wineries are signatories to the Australian Packaging Covenant, but that focus is more about recycling and minimising waste than accessibility, and if you follow the Accessible Design guidelines recommended by Arthritis Australia, wine packaging seems well behind.

Undoubtedly one of the biggest issues with wine packaging is the closure, and you could argue that modern screwcaps are infinitely more accessible than corks. But it shouldn’t stop there, as many modern screwcap designs are arguably inaccessible for the less able too. I don”t want to just single out DIAM sparkling corks, but there is clearly a challenge there.

Then again, maybe it is just me. Does anyone else find opening a bottle of wine occasionally rather challenging?

Which way do you swirl your wine glass?

So which way do you go?

It seems like a silly question at first, but we're keen to know – which hand do you use to swirl your wine glass? Further, which way do you swirl? Clockwise or anti-clockwise?

Swirl me baby one more time? But which way?

We've heard that (apparently) women swirl with their left hands and men with their right. But is this true?

Truth be told, gender plays no part in the swirl question at all, and it is more about your dominant hand. For right hand dominant swirlers it seems anti-clockwise (or swirling away from you) is the most natural choice, whilst left hand swirlers go clockwise. For the ambidextrous freaks out there? Well, you probably swirl both ways.

But does that play out with you?

Of course, if want to embrace some alternative theories, we should be choosing our swirl direction based on whether we want to smell fruit or ‘the spice shelf’.

I’ll leave you to decide that one…