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Screwcap wine seals: has Kiwi ingenuity gone too far?
16 August 2001

Why has a group of successful, highly respected producers of premium New Zealand wines chosen to challenge tradition and present their wines to you under a screwcap wine seal?

Quite simple really - we care about our wines.
We are committed to bringing our wines to you in the best possible condition. And we know that the only way to do this confidently is to seal every bottle with a screwcap wine seal.

Screwcap wine seals work.
Screwcap wine seals do not introduce the risk of extraneous 'taint' to the wine: instead, they allow the wine to mature and develop without outside help. The result is a wine showing true characters developed from the wine itself, as intended by the winemaker.

But surely screwcap wine seals bring risks of their own?
No, they don't. Screwcap closures have been protecting premium food and beverages for over 30 years, but anxiety about 'marketing issues' has led to restricted supply of premium quality wines under screwcap. (This is despite the fact that a number of highly respected wineries from various parts of the globe store their own 'library stock' wines under screwcap wine seals to ensure that the wines are not at risk of oxidation or taint!)

How do screwcap wine seals work?
The screwcap is formed from an aluminium alloy outer, with a liner of expanded polyethylene covered with a tin foil and a PVDC film. The physical seal is created through very firm compression of the liner against the top portion of the bottle. The seal is further secured as the 'skirt' of the capsule is formed to the bottle thread. The seal is released by holding the top of the bottle around the capsule firmly in one hand and gently twisting the bottom of the bottle with the other.

What about the romance of the cork?
Try replacing the romance of the cork with the true romance of great wine, time after time, with no disappointments due to tainted or oxidised wine.

Will screwcap closures allow wine to age?
Yes -wine ageing is a function of the natural chemical characters in the wine and will occur over time -irrespective of the bottle closure. James Halliday, a noted Australian wine writer, said, "Some people have the idea that the development of wine with a Stelvin (screwcap) closure will be artificially arrested. Not so; there is sufficient oxygen in the wine and in the head space to allow that part of development which requires oxygen to take place, and -what is more -much of the development will take place anaerobically (ie: without oxygen)."

Do I still have to cellar my wines in a horizontal position?
No. Because there will be no leakage of gases through the screwcap wine seal, your wines will cellar equally well in either upright or horizontal position.

How long will wines under screwcap last in my cellar?
We believe that your wines will cellar at least as long under screwcap wine seals as they will under natural cork (wineries cellaring stocks long-term generally re-cork every 25 years).

Protection of wine using a screwcap wine seal ensures:

  • Total confidence that you will receive wine in premium condition - alive, abounding with flavours and a pleasure to drink.
  • Each bottle of a given wine will be just as good as the last.
  • Elimination of taint and other malodorous flavours that can contaminate wines through previously accepted closure types.
  • Elimination of wine oxidation (seen as rapid ageing, discoloration, loss of fruit flavours and, ultimately, the destruction of the wine) due to air leakage which can occur when other closure types are used.
  • Consistent, reliable ageing characteristics, showing the wine's development as the winemaker intended.
  • Dependable cellaring - no longer will you cellar your favourite premium wine only to be disappointed when you finally open it. The wine will age evenly and gracefully.

Are screwcap wine seals here to stay?
Consider the following question, posed by New Zealand's Bob Campbell, Master of Wine: "I have one question for all of the other winemakers who for the time being continue to use corks. If you know that screwcaps will produce better and more consistent wine than corks, how can you continue to short-change your customers?"

This information comes from the NEW ZEALAND SCREWCAP WINE SEAL INITIATIVE pamphlet.

What is the New Zealand Screwcap Wine Seal Initiative?

This press Release, dated 16th August, 2001, tells more

Earlier this year, a sub-committee of Marlborough Winemakers was set up to evaluate screwcap closures as an alternative to traditional corks. Their research strongly endorsed the Clare Valley Riesling producers' selection of screwcap closures. In the process of researching closure issues, the Marlborough group received much interest and encouragement from winemakers in other areas of the country, and in May 2001 the 'New Zealand Screwcap Closure Initiative' was born.

The Initiative now has 27 member wineries, representing top producers from Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Martinborough, Nelson, Marlborough, Canterbury and Central Otago.

Screwcap wine seal steering committee Wineries involved in this work include
Allan Scott Wines
Cairnbrae
Clifford Bay
Craggy Range
Firstland Vineyards
Forrest Estate
Foxes Island
Framingham
Gibbston Valley
Giesen Wine Estate
Goldwater Estate
Jackson Estate
Kim Crawford
Kumeu River
Lawson's Dry Hills
Neudorf
Palliser Estate
Riverby Estate
Seresin Estate
Te Whare Ra
Trinity Hill
Villa Maria
Wairau River
Wither Hills
Woollaston Estate

The primary purpose of the Initiative has been to facilitate use of screwcap wine seals for the current bottling season that began in July 2001. Media awareness activities will begin with a 'launch' to the NZ media in mid-August with subsequent activity in export markets.

There has been much to learn about packaging material requirements, application equipment and process control to achieve successful application of screwcap seals. We have been extremely grateful to suppliers for the technical support that they have given us in accomplishing the aims of our project. In particular, ACI Glass Packaging (NZ) have developed new moulds to provide our members with screwcap glass, and we have been very fortunate to have the open technical support of two capsule suppliers, Pechiney, Esvin (Stelvin brand) and Auscap (Supervin brand), in developing protocols for use of screwcap products.

The Initiative has had great support from the Clare Valley wineries with their sharing of experiences. They were fortunate to have Jeff Grossett, a founding member of the Clare Valley screwcap movement, attend one of the major technical workshops.

The really exciting culmination of this work will be the release of a number of premium New Zealand wines from the 2001 vintage under screwcap. These wines will represent every wine- producing region in the country, several varieties (including Pinot Noir and Merlot), and over 20 producers.

The move to screwcaps is being led by some of New Zealand's top winemakers. The motivation for this move is improved quality, as has been succinctly expressed by Michael Brajkovich MW, of Kumeu River Wines. Michael was asked why he would even consider using the lowly screwcap for his wines, and replied "Because it will make my wines better".

For further information please contact: Rose Prendeville
Project Coordinator, NZ Screwcap Closure Initiative prendeville@xtra.co.nz.
Phone / fax 0064 3 575 7070 Mobile 0064 21 502311

Footnote:
At the time of writing, other producers will bottle in screwcap but have not yet joined the Screwcap Wine Seal Initiative Group. Amongst these producers is Matua Valley Wines in Auckland

Update - 5 December 2001
New Screwcap Initiative Committee announced.
A new committee for the Screwcap Wine Seal Initiative has now been formed and is more geographically representative of the New Zealand wine industry, as the use of the screwcap wine seals spread.
Committee members are:

    Auckland - Michael Brajkovich (Chair), Kumeu River
    Hawkes Bay - John Hancock, Trinity Hill
    Marlborough - John Belsham, Foxes Island and Dave Williams, Jackson Estate (both from the original establishment committee)
    Nelson - Tim Finn, Neudorf Vineyards
    Wairarapa - Richard Riddiford, Palliser Estate
    Canterbury - Marcel Giesen, Giesen Wine Estates
    Otago - Grant Taylor, Gibbston Valley
At the last count membership of the Initiative stood at 29 wineries, with one further member about to join.

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