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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Christian Davis

Tesco is taking the debate over traditional stopper versus screwcap to the consumer by introducing more than 20 wines with screwcaps in its Wine Festival' next month. Many well-known wine brands are participating, including wines from Southcorp and BRL Hardy and a new Tesco own brand, Unwind. Anne-Marie Bostock, Tesco's category manager for wine, told Harpers: This is an initiative we really believe in and we are putting our money where our mouth is. We want our consumers to drink the wine as it is intended to be.' Tesco's product development manager, Phil Reedman MW, said: So far we have only just tested the waters with screwcapped wines over 5, and our customers have responded very well. We feel the time is perfect to launch a full range of alternative closures.' Southcorp has eight SKUs (stock-keeping units) in Tesco's Wine Festival, including: Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay, Bin 50 Shiraz, Bin 40 Merlot and Bin 95 Sauvignon Blanc; plus Penfolds Rawson's Retreat Cabernet Sauvignon, Rawson's Retreat Riesling, Rosemount Grenache-Shiraz and Semillon-Chardonnay. James Lousada, Southcorp's marketing director, told Harpers that it would be monitoring the rate of sale for up to six months before making any major decision, but he envisaged the company offering its brands in both traditional closure and screwcap, depending on the consumer and the drinking occasion. For some, the cork is integral to the wine drinking experience and can never be replaced, but for younger drinkers or those who are more adventurous, the screwcap offers unarguable benefits. The benefits of screwcap are obvious to the wine trade,' he added, but we are hoping that with the power of the brand and the muscle of Tesco, we will be able to convince consumers.' Lousada said that there will be explanations of the fixture and Tesco's will use its Clubcard database to inform and educate its core shoppers. Asked about suggestions that the quality of natural cork has deteriorated, Lousada said: We are not aware of any studies that provide conclusive evidence of cork deterioration. However, we have recently upgraded cork quality on Penfolds [Rawson's and Koonunga] and Wynns from grade three to two.' Cabonne, the wine producer based in Australia's Orange region, has secured its first listings with Tesco. All four of the wines are screwcapped. Neil Bruce, Cabonne's European sales manager, said: This is a bold move for us on the road to establishing our wines in the UK.' The Cabonne wines, retailing at 5.99, are from the Reynolds Little Boomey range and include a Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Verdelho and a Limited Release Chardonnay. All four wines are new to the UK market.