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“Cheers!” The Birth of the Champagne Bottle

January 12th, 2021 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

At the start of the 16th century, spurred by the invention of the printing press and a push for overseas exploration, wood had become a critical part of everyday European life. It was used to construct homes and buildings, like fuel for heating and glassmaking, and it was the primary raw material for building ships. But by mid-century, Europe faced a serious wood shortage that would change the course of history. Yet despite its terrible cost, the shortage had an ironic silver lining: the birth of the Champagne bottle.

The origin of sparkling wine itself is a tangled web, most of it considered apocryphal or disputed at best. Perhaps the most famous creation myth is attributed to Dom Perignon, the 17th-century Benedictine monk, winemaker, and cellar master of the Abbey of Hautvillers, whose alleged discovery of secondary fermentation in the bottle led him to proclaim, “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!”

Others assert that the technique of secondary fermentation, now popularly known as “Method Tradtionelle” and associated with Champagne production, was stolen by Perignon from winemakers in southern France. While likely a tall tale, the southern commune Limoux claims to have created sparkling wine in 1531 predating Champagne production by an entire century. Despite his controversial role, famed Champagne house Moët & Chandon still tends a statue of Dom Perignon on its grounds.

While these famous tales and the ubiquity of Champagne have buttressed France’s claim to sparkling wine, one of the most intriguing origin stories comes from an unexpected source. In England, a royal decree led to amazing innovations in glassware that allowed for the creation of bottles capable of withstanding the rigors of carbonation and may have helped propel the creation of Champagne itself.

In 1615, King James I issued a proclamation prohibiting the widespread use of wood in hopes of preserving forests and keeping the Royal Navy afloat. While the wood shortage would impact all of Europe, it affected Britain first. Economic historian John U. Nef suggests that Britain’s rapidly expanding population was to blame for the shortage there. As Nef wrote in a 1977 article for Scientific American, “The population of England and Wales, about three million in the early 1530s, had nearly doubled by the 1690s.”

In a report by the BBC, Nick Higham writes, “Early modern glassmakers used charcoal made from oaks to heat their furnaces, but the navy banned the use of oak for anything other than shipbuilding.” Working around the new restrictions, England’s glassmakers resorted to coal. In an invention born of necessity, they discovered that coal’s ability to burn at higher temperatures produced stronger glass. The newfound technique produced thick, sturdy vessels — ones in which the pressure from carbon dioxide could safely be contained. It was the red-hot dawn of the Champagne bottle.

“While European counterparts were still using wood, the Champagne bottle as we know it was born in the furnaces of England,” Jai Ubhi writes in a 2019 Atlas Obscura article. He continues, “Not only did these new bottles help spawn an embryonic wine industry, but they became status objects, themselves.”

No matter who invented sparkling wine, the ship-building supply shortage and glassmaking innovations of England’s working-class undoubtedly helped spark the still-burning flame of Champagne, igniting the proliferation of a beloved cultural delicacy around the world.

Report Issued by RIPA on US Reconditioning Activity

November 24th, 2020 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: Associations, Industry News, Skolnik Newsletter

Reusable packagings continue to thrive in the global economy. To understand the breakdown of the usage of these packagings, the Reuseable Industrial Packaging Association (RIPA) has released a biennial report on industrial container reconditioning in the US. The report presents summary data on the annual production of reconditioned steel and plastic 55-gallon drums as well as 275- and 330-gallon composite “intermediate bulk containers” (IBCs). Data reported is for calendar year 2019. This report also profiles the container reconditioning industry in terms of industry practices, processes used, equipment used, employee training, markets served, customer service and regulatory compliance. The association last conducted a similar survey for calendar year 2017 as well as other surveys every 2 years preceding that date.

“We believe this biennial report is useful to RIPA members as well as other interested parties in seeing trends in production,” says Technical Director C.L. Pettit. The report can be used to benchmark other packaging businesses,” explained Pettit. “The RIPA study is the only one of its kind produced by the industry itself,” he added. Click here to see the entire report.

Free HazMat Training Webinars from DOT

November 17th, 2020 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: DOT/UN, HazMat, Industry News, Safety, Skolnik Newsletter

PHMSA offers Hazmat transportation training workshops and webinars throughout the year. These free training opportunities are for anyone who offers or transports hazardous materials in commerce, or has a desire to learn more about DOT’s Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR).

PHMSA conducts webinars specialized to meet the needs of industry or the public safety community. Transportation webinars provide a basic overview of the regulatory requirements – what they are, how they apply, and how to comply with them – for shipping and transporting Hazardous Materials.

To register for any of the webinars below, please use the following link:
https://opsweb.phmsa.dot.gov/hm_seminars/default_webinar.asp

Could a Tool to Combat Coronavirus Also Protect Grapevines from an Annual Threat?

November 10th, 2020 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

Scientists and vintners are exploring using UV lights, now being employed in HVAC systems to reduce the threat of COVID-19, as a weapon against mildew on grapevines.

Writing in a recent Wine Spectator article, Lynn Alley, reports that Jim Bernau, founder of Willamette Valley Vineyards, was installing an ultraviolet light component to his HVAC system in the winery, to protect both staff and customers against COVID-19 when inspiration struck. “The light bulb went off when we started researching the UV light to kill COVID,” said Bernau. “It reminded me of the research I’d been reading about for years on using UV light to kill pathogens in the vineyard.” Alley goes on to write that: “Bernau, like most organic and sustainable growers, uses organic Sulphur to control powdery mildew in his Oregon vineyards. Many other vintners employ chemical fungicides. According to the Robert Mondavi Institute Center for Wine Economics at U.C. Davis, powdery mildew currently accounts for an estimated 74 percent of total pesticide applications by California grape growers. The fungicides are costly and environmentally unfriendly, plus the fungus typically adapts to the fungicides within a few generations, requiring heavier applications or changing formulas.”

An international consortium of scientists known as the Light and Plant Health Project, led by David Gadoury, a plant pathologist at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, N.Y., has developed an inexpensive answer. Gadoury has spent his entire career looking for ways to keep plants healthy. Although scientists have known for several years that UV light will kill bacteria, viruses and fungi, just exactly how to apply their finds in a working field or vineyard has been a challenge. “Research in using UV light to kill the powdery mildew pathogens is not new,” Gadoury said. “But it has accelerated with the discovery that UV is much more effective when applied at night.” Gadoury and his team have found that mounting UV lights on tractors or sending self-driving robots into the vineyards at night can scramble the mildew’s DNA and kill it faster, safely, and more efficiently than costly fungicides. “What makes it possible for us to use UV to control these plant pathogens is that we apply it at night,” Gadoury said. “At night, the pathogens don’t receive blue light and the DNA repair mechanism isn’t working.”

The team has partnered with SAGA Robotics in Norway to develop the first commercial robot fitted with UV lights. The Norwegian robots are autonomous vehicles fitted with an array of lamps. “Our initial assessment is that an autonomous vehicle will make UV light application far less expensive than the current seven- to 10-day application of organic sulfur via tractor and sprayer with operator,” said Bernau. “There is another significant advantage. Our spray windows vary due to the Willamette Valley’s periodic rainy or windy weather conditions, frustrating the best timing for applying sulfur via tractor and sprayer. The application of UV light is not restricted by weather.”

Here at Skolnik Industries, you’ll see the light with our stainless steel wine barrels. Note that our stainless steel wine barrels are reusable, easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums here.

Being Prepared for an Unscheduled DOT Inspection

October 27th, 2020 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: DOT/UN, Skolnik Newsletter

Manufacturer’s and Reconditioners of UN certified packagings are, at all times, subject to unscheduled inspections by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Recently, inspectors have stepped-up visits and therefore, it is best to be prepared if you are visited. There are 14 Checklist items that can help you to be prepared for a successful inspection. You can link to a more detailed item description HERE.

  1. Make sure you, your staff and DOT inspectors wear face masks.
  2. Ask the DOT inspectors for identification.
  3. Ask why the Inspector is at your plant.
  4. Keep Copies of all your required DOT records in one location. Inspectors are likely to ask for:
    hazmat employee training records, up-to-date annual design qualification test reports, closure instructions, and hazardous waste transportation manifests.
  5. Customer information including customer invoices.
  6. Make sure your employees can Answer basic training and/or operation-specific questions from the inspector.
  7. Make sure you or a designated management employee accompanies the inspector during the plant tour.
  8. Prepare in advance for an inspection. DOT inspectors are trained to look at the manufacturing process.
  9. Create your own written record of what was observed during the inspection.
  10. You may be asked to perform on-site testing.
  11. Keep the exit briefing form.
  12. Call Your lawyer if it appears a problem has been found.
  13. Remedy the problem(s) identified by the inspector as soon as possible.
  14. Respond to the exit briefing.

If prepared, the inspection should yield results that will confirm or improve your manufacturing and shipping process. For a more detailed item description of this Check-List, click HERE.

What are Limited Quantities of Dangerous Goods?

October 20th, 2020 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: HazMat, Safety, Skolnik Newsletter

All materials which meet the criteria of one of the nine (9) hazard classes are regulated as hazardous materials for transport. However, when the amount of certain hazardous material packed within a package is limited, the magnitude of the hazard is reduced but not eliminated. Thus, exceptions can be applied for packaging and hazard communication as authorized for certain hazard classes.

In order to qualify for these exceptions, the US Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR Parts 171?180; HMR), the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code), the International Civil Aviation Organization Technical Instructions on the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air (ICAO TI), Transport Canada’s Transport of Dangerous Goods (TDG), and other international regulatory texts authorize specific quantity limitations per inner and outer packaging for each hazard class and packing group. If the quantity of material contained within the inner packaging is below these limitations, and the gross weight of the outer package is within the authorized limits the consignment may be offered for transportation as a limited quantity.

The HMR, IMDG Code, and TDG typically limit the amount of material allowed within the largest inner packaging in a combination package and limit the gross weight of the package, while the ICAO TI limits the net quantity of hazardous material in the package.
Click here for guidance on Limited Quantities in air, sea, road and rail.