Monday, November 12, 2012

Why we haven't got closures right yet... A follow-up



 
Nomacorks and screwcaps on the same brand...

Given the responses I've had to my previous post, I should perhaps make the point that my interest in this subject is not academic or hypothetical. I have a dog in this race. Or several dogs to be precise. The Le Grand Noir wines of which I am co-owner currently sell - for $8-10 or equivalent - in quantities of over 1m bottles per year in a wide range of countries. They are currently shipped under three different closures. The whites, and the Pinot Noir, are under screwcaps; the reds under Nomacork and shipments of both styles to China have natural corks. 

This less-than-ideal situation (at least in terms of dry-goods inventory) has little to do with the wine, or our personal preferences and a great deal to do with the market. Rightly or wrongly, our business model has been based on listening to consumers and the distributors and retailers who deal with them in each of the over 12 countries to which we are shipping our wines. So, we briefly tried using screwcaps for all styles in the US - our biggest market - but customer resistance forced us back to Nomacork. We tried to get the Chinese importers to accept Nomacork or screwcaps and they insisted - to my chagrin - on naturals. We haven't used Diam (which I see as effectively interchangeable with Noma in many ways) and can't afford Vinoloks on wines retailing at our prices. And that doesn't really leave many other options.

Cork-supporting fans think I should simply use naturals for everything and get over the fact that a proportion of my bottles will taste at least different, and most likely worse, than the others. My screwcap-loving friends propose that I persuade or bully reluctant customers into accepting a closure they find aesthetically unappealing ("I know you wanted chicken sir, but you really should try the roast beef") and the Nomacork brigade can't see what all the fuss is about.

To be blunt, Looking at my bottles and at what is on offer to me in the way of closures, I feel like a diner in a restaurant whose menu has nothing I really want to and/or can afford to eat. Am I really alone in feeling this way?

12 comments:

  1. What can be wrong about adapting packaging and extrinsic product attributes for specific markets? BTW Robert: Is Le Grand Noir available in Australia?

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    1. Nothing, obviously - provided one is happy with the selection from which you get to choose. I'm disatisfied - the the reasons stated - with all of the closures I can currently afford. Perfume manufacturers enjoy a far broader range of packaging options.

      And no, Le Gand Noir is not available YET (we're in discussions but open to other offers)

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  2. Difficult conditions indeed. One could hope that Vinolok gains wider shares/acceptance (at least in mature markets) so 'economies of scale' might make the glass closure affordable also for lower price segments.

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  3. Have you tried ZORK for some of the wines?

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    1. No, we haven'. I've followed the Zork story since the beginning andthink they have great potential for sparkling wines. I'm less convinced about them aesthetically as a closure for still wines.

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  4. The alternative C you were seeking in your previous post can be found in a new development- nanocork. It is a natural cork with a special polymer coating which stops TCA dead and regulates oxygen, preventing bottle variation or reduction. In AWRI tests and tests with customers in 10 countries it outperformed screw caps, nomacorc and Diam whilst being price competitive with them all. It has outstandingly good sustainability profile too.

    It means that users can have full confidence in natural cork knowing that every bottle will be as good as every other.

    Incidentally AWRI said it had "the best possible performance characteristics of any closure in its price range".

    It is produced in Portugal and is sold in all major wine producing countries. My company Bacchus Wine Closures Ltd developed the technology so I do have a particular interest in spreading the word!

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    1. Thank you, I'd love to test them.

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  5. Jean Marie Johnston replied via Facebook I wanted to give my experience on screwcaps.

    In 2005 I have done if you remember all my wines with the frog label, and we used the same screw caps for all wines, Sauvignon blanc, colombard,chardonnay, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec.

    The wines have been stored in a temperature controlled wharehouse for all this time, and since I split with the partner I have done these wines with, the wines were never sold in the end.
    The wines were bottled from march to june 2006.
    in 2010 the whites were still just stunning.
    The red did not move in taste, certainly kept by the remaining CO2 level.
    I have done again the tasting of these wines in june this year.....
    Great discovery... all the reds are broken and dead, and I mean dead with even the colour broken with solid elements on the glass, and the whites have turned completely....almost oxidized.

    I repeat, the wines have not suffered from anything else than time ( no heat, .....)
    Great mystery to be solved with careful analysis, but one thing is sure, don't hope keeping the reds for long if you cannot control a level of micro oxydisation and the sceal normally used for the whites.

    So I guess for the screw caps, my answer is yes, for wines which will not exceed 3 years, and by no mean for a longer period unless they can prove that the top plastic sceal can leave the reds to breathe a little and replace the co2 by some o2 to help the aging correctly.
    Hope this helps you to clarify what experience can be versus words....

    All the best

    Jean Marie

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    1. Thank you J-M. The obvious question is over the SO2 levels, or the reliability of the particular screwcaps you used. I am drinking older red and white examples than yours from New Zealand and not encountering any problems. Quite the reverse. They are fresher than cork-sealed contemporaries.

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  6. I have been using screwcaps since 2002 vintage. The wines look great. I suspect the problems such as this are to do with application, dissolved oxygen etc rather than anything to do with the closure. Many friends in NZ and cross Australia share my experience with similar outcomes. However, we have all found that different applicators (ie companies) have vastly different outcomes in terms of dissolved oxygen. As Robert suggests, free SO2 is another critical factor. I bottle between 15parts free and 40 parts free depending on whether its a short term red e.g. passetoutgrains style or a more delicate white.

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    1. Thanks for this Eldridge. I agree that there are too many examples of people using screwcaps without either oxidation or reduction issues for me to believe in an inherent fault in the closure.

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