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 that makes opening jars and the like 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?