The Perils of Fame

Apparently, it is dangerous even to be the wife of a semi-famous economist-author. In this blog post about the difference between corked wine and screw-top wine, Levitt’s wife, Jeannette, is revealed to be not only a drinker but a cork snob:

We recently had a friend over (her husband, Steve Levitt, co-wrote Freakonomics) and I noticed the strange look she gave me when I turned the screw cap of a very good South African Sauvignon Blanc.

To the blogger’s credit, he notes that a screw cap really does diminish the drama of opening a bottle of wine. But it’s good that Jeannette got busted by a friend. Can you imagine what an enemy, or even a stranger would have made of her “strange look”?


"However, try drinking a wine that has been bottled for 5-6 years with a screw top, and you will realize that it has not aged at all!"

This is simply not true. There is enough air inside the bottle and dissolved in the wine to allow for normal aging, and modern screw tops are very precise, allowing for the winemaker to control the amount of air exchange simply by making it slightly looser.


The Perils of Fame? What does this have to do with fame?... besides the fact that the blogger dropped Levitt's name.
I agree with Silvanus...
Maiden Rocks!!! \m/



You dismissed my statement without providing any evidence to back up your claim.
I suggest you read the article by
P Lopes, C Saucier, P-L Teissedre and Y Glories. 'Impact of storage position on oxygen ingress through different closures into wine bottles,' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 54(18), 6741-6746, 2006.
(This study describes the results of three years of their measurements, comparing the oxygen transmission rates (OTRs) of cork stoppers with both synthetic stoppers and screwcaps.)



Never mind chappy, he's having a bad day.

Personally, I was disappointed to find plastic instead of true cork in my wine bottles until someone explained to me the ecological benefits. (I didn't know removing the cork killed the tree--duh.)


I generally love this blog, and realize that every blog post is not going to be a perfect gem, but I think this post would have been better if it were a private e-mail between you and Levitt.

Chris Masse

I'm against corked wine. There is a virus in the natural wood bark cork that could ruin your wine. It happens rarely, but then it's on the client. That's why in French restaurants, they make you taste the wine, to be sure it's OK. If it's not, they will look for another bottle.


Chappy, it sounds like what you're looking for is free articles, not blog posts. Blogging is a community activity, so it's perfectly acceptable and natural to comment on other folks blog posts and activities. I think there should be more of this sort of stuff.



Other benefits of screw caps:

Alexi de Sadesky

I'll take function over "atmosphere" on this one. Its funny to see a blogger write about how a screw top ruins the atmosphere, because if that is the case then what does a blog do to human interaction?

cheri in oregon

Removing the outer bark that is used for corks does NOT kill the tree. The trees are 'barked' about every 8 years, according to a recent TV in depth report on corks, plastic 'corks' and twist top. According to the report, twist tops are the best way to preserve the wine with little chance of taintage (is that a word?) or spoiling.
ps this is my 1st blog!! Always like putting in my trivia 2 cents worth...


Dear Mr. Dubner: Having known Jeannette for more than 2 years, I can say while she might be an occasional drinker she is certainly NOT a snob!



It would seem corks are a byproduct of a different era that has long outlived its usefulness. I don't want to sit at a table while a waiter spends 2 minutes making small talk while opening the bottle. What I find interesting is that most scotches have corks but they don't require special gadgets (read: corkscrews) to open so I was always confused why wineries continue using corks.


There are two distinct issues:

1) Technological - Does cork conserve wine better than screw tops?
Apparently, yes. However, there is some chance of taintage. The French monk named Dom Perignon in the 1600s made cork stoppers famous. There was no plastic then. Cork stoppers are becoming better, but such improvements cannot help wine bottled 5 years ago!

2) Environmental - Cork is a renewable resource, while screw tops are made from plastic. The cork is the bark of the cork oak tree. The bark is extracted every 9 years. Cork is produced in the Mediterranean countries, especially in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and the south of France. Cork is the main source of income of forests that cover 6.7 million acres in the Mediterranean countries mentioned above and that are home to some endangered animal species. Choosing cork stoppers contributes to keep the cork oak landscape alive.



I'm sorry, but does Jeanette Levitt have enemies? Old girlfriends of Dr. Levitt's, perhaps angry they didn't marry the fellow?

Just because you blog about someone with a connection to fame doesn't mean anything. I met Bruce Dickinson (lead singer for Iron Maiden and British Airways pilot) in person. I was astonished at how short he was. Nowhere in that post you linked had "snob" in it. Perhaps Dubner is seeing phantom attacks? Who knows. I'm pretty sure Bruce Dickinson isn't worrying about how someone in the Freakonomics website noted his stature.

: /


I think the enemies part was sarcastic, Silvanus.

This post was fine, and pretty humorous. Levitt's wife was publicly blasted, and Dubner shot back. Good man, good friend.


The difference in caps is more than aesthetic, economics is a very large consideration - cork is becoming cost prohibitive, about $.75 each. Screw caps are much less expensive, seal better and reseal better. ;-]

Gene Shiau

I don't drink wine, but I try to keep up with the world of wine tasting. Seeing all the battles between screw-top and cork, I am wondering why there hasn't been a novelty wine bottle that lets you pop the cork for the atmosphere and then (secretly?) open the screw-top that protects the rest of the wine safely.

Wait, don't tell me. You'll ruin it. :)

Jimbo Bob

I think I know the wine that was being served because it is one of my lower cost favorites and recently was changed to a screw off, from a cork.

Needlesss to say I don't bring it out when company is over anymore.


I am the author of Steel Kaleidoscopes and, for the record, have known Jeannette for 20 years. She is an amazing person — smart, caring, funny and sincere.

I said she gave me a strange look, but it wasn't obvious and she may not have even known she was doing it.

The point is, there's something special about popping the cork of a bottle of wine. It's almost "expected." When someone opens a bottle of wine, it's just plain weird to see them turning a screw cap.

Jeannette had already opted for a beer before I opened the wine, and that's all she had. She filled the rest of the few hours with us sipping bottled water.

For you to refer to her as a drinker and a wine snob is not accurate.

- Dan

Jeannette Levitt

Thanks, Bucky, for defending me.

The funny thing is, my "strange look" (although I didn't even know I made one) had nothing to do with a screw cap. I was completely oblivious that he was unscrewing the cap. I was looking at the bottle to try to figure out what color liquid was inside. I'm more a fan of red wine, and wasn't sure if the wine was red or white.