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Leading Australian winery returns to cork

30 Jul / 2012

Leading Australian winery Rusden Wines has announced it is giving up on screwcap closures after five years as a result of persistent quality control issues and will now bottle its entire product range under cork.

In an article in the July edition of Australia’s Wine Business Magazine (WBM), Rusden winemaker Christian Canute said the Barossa Valley winery had experienced a range of problems with its wine under screwcap and the decision to return to cork was based purely on technical performance.

“After a five year trial of screwcap it has become clear that cork is best for our wines,” Canute told WBM.

“Our wines are handmade and bottled without fining or filtration. Under a screwcap I have noticed the wines ‘sweat’, producing overly dominant reductive characters, a problem we have never had under cork.”

Rusden is among the top echelon of Australian family-owned wineries and is well respected in both the domestic and international market. It has been highly-rated by Robert Parker consistently over the last 10 years with its Black Guts Shiraz averaging above 95 points during that period.

Canute said Australian sommeliers had provided feedback that confirmed the reductive, ‘sweaty’ characters he was experiencing in the winery with the wine under screwcap. Trade customers were also experiencing a great deal of bottle variation, which again Rusden had not encountered with its wines bottled under cork.

“When I saw Rusden losing customers because of this, I realised something needed to be done,” Canute said.
Following further technical analysis and tasting Rusden determined that the screwcap closure was the cause of the problems and when the entire 2009 vintage of its Driftsand grenache/shiraz was affected decided to change the closure.

“As I had noticed an incredible improvement in the performance of cork in all our other wines, it was obvious to me that the move back to cork would be the best direction to head in,” Canute told WBM.

“From a technical point of view, from a sustainability point of view, from a consumer point of view and from an aspirational, premium factor point of view, cork is the best companion to wine.”

Canute said he was aware of other winemakers who were unhappy with the way their wines aged under screwcap and questioned why the Australian industry tried to sell screwcap over and above Australian wine.

“Any winemaker should be able to have the choice of using the closure they see as best for their product without negativity surrounding their decision. I reckon we are on the right track thanks to companies like Amorim who have invested so much into producing quality cork which should allow winemakers to have another option at their fingertips they can rely upon with confidence,” Canute said in the WBM interview.

“Amorim has spent millions on improving cork recently and I am completely confident in their product.”

In recent years Amorim has experienced a return to cork by wineries in a number of key markets as well as the UK retail sector.
Last year iconic South African winery Klein Constantia returned to cork to seal its premier white wine, the Perdeblokke sauvignon blanc. The decision was driven by concerns over reductive characters under screwcap.

Napa Valley-based Rutherford Wine Company has moved from synthetic closures back to cork citing both environmental and technical benefits.

In the UK, large retailers have switched products back to cork for environmental reasons.

“We believe wineries and major retailers are returning to cork because of consumer preference, vast improvements in the quality of cork, the emerging limitations of alternative closures and a growing awareness of cork’s environmental advantages,” said Amorim’s director of marketing and communication Carlos de Jesus.

In 2010 Amorim, the world’s leading cork producer, recorded its best ever annual sales result, selling more than 3 billion cork wine stoppers. This represented 26 per cent of total cork stopper sales for the year and gave Amorim greater sales volume than any type of alternative wine closure. The 2010 result gave Amorim sales volume growth of 13.8 per cent.

Amorim surpassed its 2010 sales result in 2011, increasing its sales volume by 243 million cork stoppers and again increasing market share at the expense of alternative closures.

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