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edited by Sue Courtney
e-mail address: winetaster@clear.net.nz

The ideal way to cap a good bottle of wine
by Sue Courtney
(published in the Rodney Times, 5 October 2000)

The Stelvins are coming. No, it's not something that sounds like it could be from the Wild West, it's simply a screw cap closure for wine bottles and the idea is not new.

Screwcap wine capsules were developed in France in the 1950's and were trialed in Australia in the 1960's and 70's and adopted for a short time in New Zealand too. However the public saw the cap as a 'cheap alternative' and the producers returned to corks in order to bring credibility back to their product.

Today, Stelvin capped wines are creeping back onto the shelves because some producers are fed up with the problems the traditional cork closure can cause, problems such as 'cork taint', a bacteria introduced into the cork during its manufacture which makes the wine taste musty, dull, flat and bitter. Corks dry out too, causing the contents to seep out and oxygen to creep in, causing variability of the taste of the same wine from different bottles.

The winemakers from the Clare Valley in South Australia are leading the change and have bottled all the region's riesling from the 2000 vintage in Stelvin. Amongst them is perhaps one of Australia's greatest riesling producers, Jeffrey Grosset, and his wines are not cheap, selling for $35 to $40 a bottle.

Other producers are dabbling with the idea and bottling just a portion of the wines in Stelvin caps. These include Barossa wineries Orlando Wyndham and Elderton, who released some Stelvin-capped riesling in 1999 and Bethany Wines, who are due to release a 6 vintage collectors pack of Stelvin-capped riesling from 1995-2000.

St Hallet are conducting a winery trial for their premium St Hallet Old Block Shiraz and Jim Irvine, who was involved in the trials in the 70's, is now trialing the lauded Irvine Grand Merlot, just to prove that Stelvin works for red as well as white.

However many companies, including those in New Zealand, are adopting a wait and see attitude. Others are saying they are more interested in the cork industry getting their act together rather than turn to screw caps.

I for one am all in favour of Stelvin and screwcaps. There is nothing worse than opening a bottle of wine, whatever the cost, to find it is faulty because of the cork. The screwcap will guarantee a wine as pure as the day it was bottled.

Check out the Screwcap Wine Seal Resource page - here on wineoftheweek.com


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E-mail me: winetaster@clear.net.nz