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Murray Almond's "From the Left Island"
"Seal of Approval" by Tyson Stelzer and Cameron Stelzer
A Book Review by Murray Almond
7 December 2003

2003 has seen a further compound growth in wines bottled under screwcap in the Australian and New Zealand market in particular. This is especially the case with Rieslings in Australia, and Sauvignon Blancs and Rieslings from New Zealand. From a glance around the shops it would appear around half or more of Oz Rieslings have screwcap, and the New Zealand New Release tasting showed 7 out of 9 Rieslings in screwcap, along with 19 out of 27 2003 Sauvignon Blanc presented in screwcap. We're also seeing the emergence of red wines in screwcap, which looks to have similar compound growth in use in coming years.

This growth in use has brought the closure discussion into the general market, where previously it was being tossed around within the industry or among wine enthusiasts. Accordingly the general market is curious and sceptical and has questions about screwcaps on wine. The wineries and winery collectives have used neck tags and box inserts to explain the change and there been a few articles in the mass media, most recently with James Halliday's firm endorsement on the screwcap in the introduction to his Top 100 wines for 2003.

However customer surveys have shown that there is still a gap in the customer education in relation to screwcaps. This is the case here, but also more critically in overseas markets, especially in America, where screwcaps have a connotation with cheap 'jug wines'.

Queensland author Tyson Stelzer with his artist brother Cameron, has taken a novel approach to the subject in his latest project; a booklet entitled "Seal of Approval - why choose screw caps".

This pocket sized book sets out the case for screwcaps in clear, short paragraphs, accompanied by Cameron's paintings which create characters from screwcaps and corks to illustrate the points being made in the text.

The whole effect is kind of like reading a Thomas the Tank Engine story, however this only serves to reinforce the messages being made in a nicely accessible way.

Tyson's previous publication "Screwed for Good - the case for screwcaps on red wine" covered the closure topic in a good deal of detail, with coverage of all sides of the closure discussion, including quite technical discussions. In contrast "Seal of Approval" is completely consumer oriented and is designed to educate consumers about the benefits of screwcap over cork. It covers 20 reasons for choosing screwcaps, from Taint, and oxidation, through to cellaring factors.

The booklet would be well suited to winery staff, retailers and restaurateurs who find themselves explaining the use of screwcaps and also for exporters to other countries. Research cited by Tyson on his website reports that there is an immediate substantial increase in people willing to buy wine in screwcap or to take screwcapped wine to restaurants once the benefits are clearly explained. Clearly consumer-oriented education plays a key role here and this book fills the purpose well.

"Seal of Approval - why choose screw caps?" provides an excellent summary of the key factors in choosing screwcap over cork in an easy to read, and understand, manner.

"Seal of Approval - why choose screw caps?" by Tyson Stelzer and Cameron Stelzer. RRP $7.95 in Australia and $9.95 in New Zealand from

  • © Murray Almond
    7 December 2003

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