Sunday, May 29, 2005

Put a Cork in it. No, Maybe Not.

The Washington Times reports that research is showing that screw tops and bag-in-a box packaging keeps wine better than either real or artificial corks. But the image problem is keeping makers of fine wine from moving too quickly. Link.
Winemakers are twisting tradition and altering the age-old ritual of opening a bottle of wine.
They are taking risks with innovative packaging to improve their wine and grab the attention of more wine drinkers, turning to screw caps, boxes with spouts and even aluminum cans, as well as creating funky labels and off-the-wall names.
"You won't find a winemaker that says packaging doesn't matter," said Sheldon Parker, general manager of Napa Wine Co., which produces 80 brands for various wineries at its facility in Oakville, Calif. "It's all about image. Winemakers are fighting for shelf space and brand awareness."
The taste, of course, is what gets drinkers refilling their glasses. But getting them to try a wine is no easy task. [...]

There are 12,000 to 15,000 brands sold in the U.S., according to John Gillespie, president of the Wine Market Council, a group that is trying to encourage people to drink more wine.
All of those brands are vying for the customer's attention.
The good news for wineries is that there are more wine drinkers in the U.S. than ever before, and they are drinking more of it.
Last year, U.S. adults drank an average of 2.77 gallons of wine, compared with 2.46 gallons in 2000 and 2.13 gallons in 1995, according to Adams Beverage Group, a market research group and trade publisher. [...]

The screw-cap closure is actually better for the wine than a cork, wine industry officials say.
Corks can ruin between 5 percent and 8 percent of all wine, if not more, reports show. The cork taint is usually caused by a fungus that gets into cork and reacts with the wine, causing it to smell and taste bad.
"Corks are beautiful and organic and have tradition, but are tragically flawed," said John Locke, senior creative director of Bonny Doon Vineyard, which has 99 percent of its wine under screw caps.
Screw caps aren't new in other countries, nor do they have the same negative connotation. Australia and New Zealand have been in the forefront of the movement.
U.S. wineries are behind the curve, but many of them are taking steps to improve their wine, despite the screw-cap perception.
Hogue Cellars, based in Prosser, Wash., undertook a 2½ year study on the effects of two types of screw caps, natural cork and synthetic cork, which is a plastic alternative.
The result: Screw caps maintained freshness more effectively than natural or synthetic corks. That was the proof the winery needed to make the switch to screw caps. [...]

Screw caps are helping with the acceptance of another packaging alternative: the bag-in-a-box.
More premium wines are turning to the airtight bag housed in a box to keep the wine fresher longer and allow for more portability.

I live in wine country, but I do not claim to know a great deal about it. I do harbor prejudices against screw tops or bags, but when brands I am familiar with try them, I will try them, knowing that I read than they keep the wine fresher,


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