Consumers still prefer wine bottles sold in the UK to be sealed with a real cork, despite the supposed benefits of screw-caps and plastic cork substitutes, according to a report released today.

This finding is contained in a new report published today by Wine Intelligence, the specialist wine industry research consultancy. The report is based on independent research into consumer attitudes to wine bottle closures, conducted via a 1,150-respondent online survey in August 2003.

"The pro-cork consumer attitude flies in the face of recent press coverage highlighting the benefits of screw-caps and the occasional tendency of traditional cork to taint the wine in the bottle, causing it to taste musty or 'corked'. It will also come as a surprise to a number of major retailers, which are increasingly advocating the scrapping of cork-sealed wines in favour of screw-caps," said Wine Intelligence.

The distinctive 'pop' of a wine cork is still a key element of the wine drinking ritual, according to the research, and it is not one they are keen to give up. Some 99% of respondents to the survey, conducted between August 15 and August 24 with a national sample of wine drinkers, said they were positive or neutral about cork. By contrast, nearly six in 10 respondents said they did not like buying wine with screw-caps.

However the recent press attention appears to be softening attitudes towards screw-cap. Just under one in three respondents reported that their view of screw-caps had improved recently.

Artificial corks, meanwhile, receive a largely neutral response, with few consumers objecting to their presence, but equally few expressing enthusiasm.

Drinkers of New Zealand and German wine came closest to a vote of confidence for screw-caps. For instance, just over half of New Zealand wine drinkers thought that a screw-cap on a bottle represented good value. In general, screw-cap advocates tended to be over 45-years-old, with the younger generation actually exhibiting more loyalty to cork.

Richard Halstead, managing director of Wine Intelligence, said: "These findings show that ordinary consumers are not yet willing to abandon a key element of the wine drinking ritual, despite evidence pointing to the better sealing properties of screw-caps.

"There is a danger here that retailers and wine producers will move too fast to embrace the new technology and in doing so alienate key segments of consumers."