Blog: Olly WehringScrewcap and rotten eggs - how great a concern?

Olly Wehring | 17 January 2007

Much ado about nothing. A load of nonsense. That’s the verdict of members of the UK wine trade on reports yesterday (16 January) that around 2% of wines bottled under screwcap could be affected by sulphidisation – and the smell of rotten eggs.

At London’s ‘Wine +’ trade show today, a source close to one leading UK wine agent said that the reports, which cite tests carried out by the International Wine Challenge, were “a load of nonsense”, and “just out to create trouble”. The consumer press, in particular, the source said, had failed to support screwcap when it first came on-stream and was only too willing to publicise “the first sign of trouble” with the closures.

Screwcaps, the source insisted, were a much safer alternative to traditional cork closures and more effective for wine to be drunk soon after purchase.

Wine producers are turning more and more to screwcaps, due to the demands of the trade, argued Ben Gordon, senior export manager, UK and Ireland, for Chile’s Carolina Wine Brands. Those demands, Gordon said, had led his company to decide to roll out screwcaps for “certain products” this year. “It’s going to take more than these reports to buck the trend. The market is demanding screwcaps, especially for entry level wines,” Gordon said.

Martin Tutty, director of sales and marketing at New Zealand’s Babich Wines, acknowledged the reports would catch the eye of consumers, but insisted that no closure is 100% free from the problem of sulphidisation. “Consumers will take notice of that, but the report mentioned 2% of wines are faulty under screwcap – that rises to 10%-12% with cork,” Tutty said at the annual New Zealand tasting in London yesterday.

Wine producers in New Zealand would have cause for concern about a backlash from consumers. Around 90% of the country’s wines are sold under screwcap; for example, Babich’s top seller, its Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough is sold entirely under screwcap and accounts for 70% of the company’s global sales.

However, as Tutty argued, there’s no such thing as the perfect closure. And, let’s be honest, in the UK, at least, the average wine drinker is driven far less by how a wine is sealed than how a wine is priced.


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