Thursday, June 14, 2007

Screw Caps as reported by Wine & Spirits Daily

Wine & Spirits Daily NewsletterJune 14, 2007 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SCREW CAPS MORE ACCEPTABLE, THOUGH STILL STRUGGLING. Wine Business Monthly's 2007 Closure Survey provides a bit of insight into what consumers and winemakers think about the industry's four main closures: natural cork, screw caps, technical and synthetic.

Natural corks remain the most widely used closer. A majority (80%) of the 237 foreign and domestic wineries surveyed say they use natural corks for at least some of their 750 ml bottles. Alternative corks are making inroads, however, particularly on more expensive bottles including the $25 and above price segment.

The theme of the survey, or at least part of it, suggests that American consumers just don't get screw caps. While other countries have embraced the closure, many Americans still view it as cheap which makes domestic winemakers more cautious in using the non-traditional closure. A lack of education on the consumer side seems to be the consensus among wine insiders, according to Wine Business. Australian, New Zealand and other New World winemakers, meanwhile, have wholeheartedly embraced screw caps.

However, most respondents believe that U.S. consumer opinion on screw caps is improving as screw cap usage continues to grow in 2007.

When it comes to preserving the wine, respondents rated screw caps as the clear leader with natural corks slightly behind. Technical and synthetic corks were rated lower, but Wine Business points out that these closures are typically used on wines that are made to drink within a 12-18 month period.

In terms of consumer acceptance, readers rated natural corks as the highest followed by technical corks, screw caps and synthetic.

In overall ratings, Wine Business finds that natural corks have increased significantly since the 2006 survey, while screw caps have improved slightly. Technical corks remained the same and synthetic corks decreased.

Mid-sized and large wineries are more likely to use alternatives than small wineries which usually stick to corks. When it comes to color, mid-size and large wineries will generally use screw caps on white wines, while mid-size and small wineries are more likely to use natural corks for red wines. Large wineries are less discriminatory and are increasingly likely to use all closures on red and white wines equally.

In general, though, natural corks are used at higher price points. Wines sold under $7 are most likely to be closed with synthetic corks. Technical and synthetics are most likely to be used in the $7-$10 range, while the $10-$14 segment is the point at which natural corks begin to dominate as the preferred closure. In the $14-$25 category, screw cap preference increased from the previous year.

What remains to be seen is whether U.S. consumers will grow more accepting of the screw cap and if it will continue as a staple in the industry. The wine business is filled with differing opinions on the subject, but one thing is clear. Screw caps remain in a niche market that depends on a number of factors such as varietal, price, color and country of origin.

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