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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jack Hibberd

Despite the much-heralded gains made by the pro-screwcap lobby in the past two years, a recent survey of more than 1,000 UK wine drinkers has shown cork is still king' when it comes to perceptions of quality. In the study - undertaken by Wine Intelligence in August of this year - 99% of the 1,170 respondents were positive or neutral about cork (55% positive, 44% neutral), while only 7% were positive about screwcap. More worryingly for the screwcap brigade, six out of ten respondents were negative towards the closure. Richard Halstead, managing director of Wine Intelligence, commented: Despite all the talk in the trade and positive press coverage given by the national newspapers, the popular perception of screwcaps is that they still equal cheap wine.' One female respondent quipped that screwcaps were cheap, but not cheerful', while another simply stated: Yuck, cheap, don't buy.' Interestingly, synthetic closures are seen as an acceptable alternative to cork, with 87.5% of respondents neutral or positive about them (17.5% positive, 70% neutral). Only a minority of consumers reported that they had experienced cork taint, and most did not regard it as a problem. Of those who had experienced problems in wine quality, most did not understand the cause. Poor quality wine, wine past its due date' and problems in the winemaking process were more readily blamed. There was some good news for screwcap enthusiasts, however, especially if you're from New Zealand. Kiwi wine loyalists' were most open to screwcaps, and also had the lowest number of cork enthusiasts (44%). New Zealand wine drinkers were also more likely to say wine is important to them, they spend more on it and they have a significant bias towards white wine. The positive media coverage is having some effect, however, as around a quarter of respondents said their opinions on screwcaps are improving, although some knew of the benefits of screwcaps but refused to accept them: I'm told they're better than cork, but personally I don't like them', was a typical response. Helen McGinn, Tesco's product development manager and self-confessed screwcap advocate, said that even though the study is generally negative about the image of screwcaps, it did provide a number of aspects to build on: The fact that almost 30% of those who responded said they were now more positive about screwcaps than they used to be is very exciting,' she said. She also pointed out that in Tesco's in-store survey 64% of shoppers were relaxed' about buying screwcapped wine. What's important is that you offer consumers a choice,' she said. Sub-4 shoppers (and those who do most of their wine shopping in the multiples) were, unsurprisingly, the other group to show least resistance to screwcaps. Against conventional wisdom, however, it was the older age groups (35+) who had least resistance to screwcaps. As well as older drinkers presumably having more wine knowledge, Halstead said that it seems that older wine drinkers with more "wine confidence" are less dependent on the ritual of pulling cork from bottle'. The full report is launched today, and can be bought from the Wine Intelligence website ( for 375.