INNOVATION & RECYCLING: SCREWCAPS VS. CORK

Since the mid-1990s, a number of wine brands have switched to alternative wine closuring materials such as synthetic plastic stoppers, screw-caps, or other closures. In some countries, screwcaps are often seen as a cheap alternative destined only for the low grade wines, however in Australia, the majority of non-sparkling wine production now uses these caps as a cork alternative. These alternatives have their own properties, some advantageous and some controversial. For example, it is argued that screw-tops are generally considered to offer a trichloroanisole (TCA) free seal by reduce the oxygen transfer rate to almost zero. TCA is one of the primary causes of cork taint in wine. However, in recent years major cork producers (Amorim, Álvaro Coelho & Irmãos, Cork Supply Group, and Oeneo) have developed methods that remove most TCA from natural wine corks. Natural cork stoppers are important because they allow oxygen to interact with wine for proper aging, and are best suited for bold red wines purchased with the intent to age.

So as mentioned above Australia and NEW ZEALAND HAVE CREATED A SCREW-CAP INITIATIVE.

International Screwcap Initiative is a non-profit making association that also offers a unique marketing opportunity to premium wine producers from around the world.

The key objectives include the following:

To encourage and facilitate the use of screw-cap wine seals by wine producers all around the world;

To provide a forum for gathering and disseminating business intelligence, and otherwise facilitating the exchange of ideas, opinions and contributions to further the use of screw-caps; and

To identify and develop business and project methodologies, and best practice in use, promotion and education of screw-cap wine seals.

Although it is mainly rooted in Australia and New Zealand there are Internation Screw-cap Initiative Members are around the world:

Why Screwcaps?

When Australian and New Zealand winemakers first decided to use screw-caps, they did so partly based on the extensive information that was available, but also as a result of the practical experience that fellow winemakers openly shared with them. Many winemakers had been conducting internal experiments for several years, therefore, samples with reasonable bottle age were available for tasting.

In addition to this, a series of trials were performed by both the University of Burgundy (1960s) and the Australian Wine Research Institute (1970s) which proved that  consecutive tastings from screwcaps were indeed a viable alternative to natural cork.

As a result, winemakers in both Australia and New Zealand decided that it was time to take the leap of faith that was necessary to get the ball rolling. As Michael Brajkovich MW, Chairman of the ISI points out, “At Kumeu River we were considering doing a proportion in screwcap and still having cork available for customers who wanted it. But then my brother Paul asked me if I was confident that the screwcap was significantly better. I said yes, and based on extensive tastings of aged Rieslings from Australia, I had no doubt that our wines would benefit over the long term as well. As a result, he decided to put everything under screwcap, and communicate with our customers that we are doing it because we knew that the wines would be better – and that has certainly proven to be the case.”


Brajkovich hits on a key point here – the decision to use screwcaps is one for the winemaker, not the marketeer. Winemakers who use screwcaps do so because it allows them to bottle their wines in optimum conditions, knowing that the airtight seal will guarantee that their wines arrive on the consumer’s tables in pristine condition.

As Tyson Stelzer, a prestigious wine critic in Australia, points out in his winemaking manual, Taming the Screw, the advantages of using screwcaps to seal wine bottles are numerous and may be summarised as follows:

No cork taint

No sporadic oxidation

Screwcaps avoid falvour modication- including scalping

Both red and whit ecan age with screwcaps

It’s a realiabel lonterm seal

Recycling


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