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Closure giants come face to face

Published:  23 July, 2008

The cork versus screwcap debate intensified at the LIWSF during
a Skalli & Rein-organised industry briefing titled New packaging opportunities for the wine industry'.

Tyson Stelzer, author of Taming the Screw, spoke first. He claimed that the screwcap is the non-interventionist closure', and gave five reasons why:

screwcaps do not alter the bouquet or palate of a wine through taint, flavour modification or flavour scalping;

screwcaps do not introduce random oxidation effects;

screwcaps allow wines to age consistently;

screwcaps allow flexibility through variation in liner permeability; and

screwcaps allow for winemaking and bottling procedures that reduce faults in the wine and the seal.

He said that an independent tasting of 1960s screwcapped Burgundies showed one to be in superb condition' and another to be in a remarkable state'. A trial by the Australian Wine Research Institute showed that after three years' bottling, wines fitted with 44mm reference 2' corks allowed an average oxygen permeation level of 0.0179mL/day, compared with an average of 0.0005mL/day for the screwcapped wines.

Carlos de Jesus, director of marketing and communication at cork producer Amorim, claimed that his company had defeated the problem' of TCA with its ROSA controlled-steam distillation process. He also said that TCA claims were at an all-time low'.

Simon Waller, vice-president of European sales at SupremeCorq, announced the results of research that showed that:

80% of those questioned preferred to open a wine bottle with a corkscrew;

the preferred reason for that choice was I like the ritual of removing the cork'; and

22% of respondents would be more likely to purchase a wine that had changed its closure from natural to synthetic cork - with 72% unaffected and 6% less likely to make the purchase.

Several members of the audience doubted whether any closure could claim to be non-interventionist', and, after the debate, de Jesus told Harpers that he disagreed with many of Stelzer's findings, particularly with the issue of the age-worthiness of screwcapped wines. He added that far more research needed to be done with screwcaps, particularly on the issue of reduction.