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Sponsored Pro Cork Study seems Flawed

Posted: Wednesday, 19 March 2014 17:40

Sponsored Pro Cork Study seems Flawed

Mar 19: What was purported to be a market research study on wine closures recently was so unabashedly skewed and biased towards the promotion and use of cork as a closure vs. screwcaps that the Press Release by PRNewswire on March 11 apparently removed it mysteriously from the website within hours but not before another site uploaded it ust as delWine downloading it

According to the Press Release by a recent market research study on wine closures reported on Mar 11 but removed within hours for some reason, 93% U.S. wine consumers associate natural cork with higher quality wines, while only 11% believe wines sealed with a screw cap to be of high quality. In Germany, 93% of those polled and in Australia 85% of the respondents associate natural cork with higher quality wines. Participants in both the U.S. and Germany went even a step further to indicate that natural cork is a positive influence on their purchase decisions whereas screw caps and synthetic closures can deter a purchase. 

The 2013 web-based survey was conducted on 1,550 consumers throughout the U.S., Australia and Germany.  Participants included red and white wine drinkers, 80 percent of whom consumed wine at least once a week. The survey was comprised of 35 percent males and 65 percent females, who are the primary shoppers for their households and range in age from 25-65. The independent study was commissioned by Tragon with research partners SAM in Germany and AWRI in Australia.

Additional findings from the study include the following:

Wines with a cork stopper are perceived as being appropriate for all occasions, from an informal dinner at home to dining out for a special occasion. Wines sealed with screw caps, on the other hand, especially in the U.S., are generally viewed as being of lower or moderate quality, and are viewed as less appropriate for a special occasion or dinner at a restaurant.

61 percent of the U.S respondents indicated that given the choice they would prefer to purchase wine with natural cork stoppers, while only three percent said they prefer to purchase wine with a screw cap.

In Germany, 72 percent of the respondents indicated that screw caps convey moderate to low quality.

Foxed by the high numbers rooting for cork, delWine decided to have a sample survey of the 2000 Facebook members of the Indian Wine Academy-the closed group which includes mostly Indian wine drinkers who may be in the consumers, connoisseurs, hospitality industry professions, journalists sommeliers but may or may not be experts or research scientists but regular wine drinkers. 

The Post on FB for the respondents read, ‘According to a recent market research study on wine closures reported on Mar 11, 93% U.S. wine consumers associate natural cork with higher quality wines, while only 11% believe wines sealed with a screw cap to be of high quality. In Germany 93% and Australia 85% associate natural cork with higher quality wines. Report does seem a bit biased but we seek OPINION OF INDIAN WINE ACADEMY MEMBERS. Here is the report-

There were several comments and queries from the members who wanted us to change the parameters. What seemed to be on top of their mind was the problem of ‘corking’, in general though a few other comments were also received before they could vote. However, in order to compare with the results, we did not let them address other issues and gave only two options as in the study.

Interestingly, results were not out of line with what the study in three countries has indicated, surely at considerable spends. 76% of those voting said they felt that the quality of wine was better when a cork closure was used. 24% were in favour of screwcaps.

One  of the members Rohan Mankani says, ‘for any Wine dinner, the ceremony of opening the cork is a huge affair.....i have seen many wine enthusiasts who fight for the opportunity to do so at their events or hosted in a way, the natural cork still adds value to wine experience.’ Rishabh Wadhwa feels ‘the cork will always be associated with quality since all the premier wines use cork. I can't recall being served a screw cap wine at any of the prestigious events ! But if u ask me it's efficacy, I think it needs replacement. It's complicated and not that effective at keeping the wine intact.’ To yet another wine lover Puneeta Chadha Khanna  uncorking a bottle is part of the wine romance :)).

Rajeev Samant, founder- CEO of the leading wine company Sula Vineyards was one of the members who voted for the Screwcaps. The company started with corks but participating in a conference in New Zealand converted him in favour of the screwcaps and today barring Rasa label and the sparkling wines all the Sula wines are sealed with screwcaps despite some glitches faced in the initial period due to the technical quality problems from the Indian suppliers. ‘I believe that our wine remains fresh longer in the bottle,’ he says.

Rajiv Seth who is on the technical committee of IGPB is a loyal defender of cork. Carrying on his reasoning he says, ‘ that isn't to say that cork stoppers are bad. They do allow the wine to breathe a bit. Their porous nature allows oxygen in the bottle and other gases out. Some experts say that this is what allows wine to age. Others, however, claim that it is the compounds in the wine that allow aging. One of the other goods things about natural cork is the satisfying "pop" as it comes out of the bottle. A screw cap can't compare with the drama and romance of popping a cork out of the neck of the bottle. Screw caps, on the other hand, seem to be the perfect solution for sealing a bottle of wine. They don't allow the wine to become "corked", like natural cork. They're easier to remove than both natural and synthetic corks. And they don't allow the wine to oxidize like synthetic corks. There is some argument about whether screw caps allow the wine to age, like a natural cork does. Since aging a bottle of wine may take 5-25 years, and the screw cap is a relatively recent development, it will take some time to determine whether or not the wine will age as well.

Another member of the group immediately sent us a pic of Henschke Hill of Grace- with a screwcap as the closure. How does one beat that?!

The issue seems to be settled in favour of screwcap when one of our Australian journalists Dan Traucki   relates his agonizing experience with the cork. He says, ‘ given that almost all wine sold in Australia is under screwcap, I would question the  report. Even iconic wines such as Irvine Merlot Royale are under screwcap. General perception is that cork is better only because wine has been under cork for centuries. Change takes time, just like when the world changed from using horses to cars, it took time. Screwcaps allow the wine to reach the consumer in exactly the way that the winemaker intended and not damaged or ruined by a chunk of tree bark. Those, who like me have had a very special bottle of wine ruined by cork taint (1990 Chateau Latour- on my son's 21st birthday) will surely agree with me that it’s time to move on. The worst thing about cork taint is that many if not most wine drinkers don't recognise it for what it is, they just think that the winemaker has made a bad wine, so they never buy that winemakers wine ever again.

On the question of aging he says, ‘I have had 20 year old white wines under screwcaps and they have developed magnificently. I believe that wines under screwcap evolve/develop slower due to the lack of additional air ingress. Therefore my theory is- that given that most people in the world who drink wine do not have cellars, wines under screwcaps can be stored in a cupboard or rack for about the same time as wines under cork in a cellar and they will show comparable levels of development.

Incidentally, the Report released by the PRnewswire went missing a day after it was published, but not before it was removed it was  downloaded by and saved by delWine. It was also reported by 

The battle of corks and screwcaps will go on for a long time. It might be better if any studies or reports that are financed by big corporate cork or screw cap producers are made available in the public domain name, are transparent and as unbiased as feasible.
For the original study, click here

Subhash Arora

If you would like to join this group dedicated to stimulations discussion and debate on various aspect of wine drinking only and with no scope for any adverstising or personal or company promotion with a view to primarily gauge the opinion of the Indian consumers, you are welcome to send a request at the Indian Wine Academy closed group page or write to who is one of the two administrators, the other being Sourish Bhattacharyya- editor



Rebecca N. Bleibaum Says:

Hi All, I continue to be surprised and disappointed by information that keeps getting reported as fact when it is simply not true. Some of you believe that the tracking study by Tragon Corporation was sponsored by the cork industry. That is simply not true and I encourage all writers and blogger to check facts before continuing to spread wrong information. This 2013 research is actually the fourth in a series of tracking studies (2004, 2007, 2011, and 2013), and all but the 2011 version was fully funded by Tragon Corporation. We are a sensory and consumer research/consulting firm with no vested interest in the wine business nor the cork vs. screw cap discussion other than to provide some scientifically derived consumer insight that wineries might use to make smarter business decisions. We first designed this research in 2004 because we observed several high-end wineries quickly moving to screw cap closures without checking in with their key target consumer on how this might change their perception. In full disclosure, the Cork Quality Council did fund the 2011 research. However, they changed nothing in our research design. They simply wanted an update on consumer perception and Tragon had no motive to update the research without external funding. The cork groups have been aware of Tragon’s research for a number of years and they liked the fact that this data adds a “facts-based” consumer perspective to the discussions, something that seems to be sorely lacking in the wine industry. The issue of natural cork versus screw cap closures will continue to be hotly debated and we don’t claim to hold all of the answers to this interesting topic. I firmly believe that different types of closures (natural cork, synthetic, and screw-cap among others) can co-exist but wineries would be wise to understand the different perceptions that they convey at the point of purchase. Consumers can easily see a cork-style closure versus screw cap at the shelf and yes, it does impact purchase behavior for most consumers. Screw caps continue to be polarizing, especially for the USA consumer and in other markets that we are currently studying. No one piece of research provides the full answer but each study can provide a window into the mind of the consumer. Rebecca N. Bleibaum Tragon Corporation

Posted @ March 20, 2014 16:13


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