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Wine Industry Innovators Vindicated

Forrest Estate Winery + Kim Crawford Wines + Lawsons Dry Hills Wines

For Immediate Release : 14 March 2002

Wine Industry Innovators Vindicated

Commercial success and a cluster of awards have vindicated the introduction of screw top bottles, according to three New Zealand wine producers.

Forrest Estate Winery, Lawsons Dry Hills Wines and Kim Crawford Wines all opted to bottle a large percentage of their 2001 vintages with screw top closures rather than with traditional corks.

The first of three container loads of Kim Crawford's screw-topped 2001 Unoaked Marlborough Chardonnay arrived in the United States this week. The Auckland-based company has also been asked to supply additional quantities of its 2001 Marlborough Dry Riesling to the American market, with the specific requirement that the wine be screw-capped.

"The advent of screw closures initially prompted some negative comment from those who feared our industry's international standing would be jeopardised. But, little more than six months down the track, we certainly feel vindicated, so much so that we are now bottling our Premium Pinot Noir, which retails at US$35 per bottle, in screw cap bottles," says Erica Crawford, General Manager of Kim Crawford Wines.

"In addition to their success in the United States, our screw-topped wines have also scored a hit with wine lovers in the United Kingdom and Australia, as well as here in New Zealand. In all these markets, there's a sophisticated younger generation of wine drinkers, who are much more interested in the quality of the wine than in the ceremony and mystique traditionally associated with corks.

"It's no accident that this market segment has responded well to the introduction of screw tops," she says, adding that, by eliminating cork taint and minimising oxidation, screw closures help to emphasise the fruity, natural taste that is a hallmark of New Zealand's best-selling quality wines.

John Forrest, Managing Director of Marlborough's Forrest Estate Winery is similarly enthusiastic about the success of screw closures. He reports a doubling of his label's sales in Ireland, due to the enthusiasm for screw closures shown by the winery's Irish agent and the decision to deliver 100% of its exports to that country in the new twist-topped bottles.

"In contrast, when supplying the much larger United Kingdom market, we cautiously opted to send only 20% of our deliveries in screw tops, only to learn that this segment was pre-sold before it ever reached our distributors there.

"It's our impression that the British wine media and wine-buying public are setting the pace for the acceptance of screw tops, with wine distributors following some way behind. We've experienced a similar pattern in the United States, although our agent there has now asked us to switch to 100% screw top deliveries, after comparing the quality of our screw-capped Sauvignon Blanc, six months after it was bottled, with that of the equivalent wine under cork closure," he says.

Along with exporting success, Forrest Estate Winery has scored two notable competition wins with screw-topped wines at the New Zealand Wine Society Royal Easter Show 2002. The winery's 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon was named Champion Sweet Wine whilst its 2001 Sauvignon Blanc carried-off the Champion Sauvignon Blanc Trophy.

In October last year, Kim Crawford's 2001 Marlborough Dry Riesling became the first New Zealand screw top wine to earn competitive honours, winning the Gold Medal and Trophy at the "2001 Liquorland Top 100" contest in Auckland.

Lawsons Dry Hills Wines in Marlborough has, meanwhile, earned international competitive recognition through the inclusion of its screw-capped 2001 Sauvignon Blanc in the respected, United States "Wine Spectator" magazine's top 100 wines. The company's screw-topped 2001 Gewurztraminer scored gold at last November's Air New Zealand Wine Awards.

"We're delighted with the level of acceptance screw tops have achieved, particularly in our key markets in the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand and Australia," says Lawsons Dry Hills' Manager, Ross Lawson.

"Increasingly, the wine buying public is seeing screw tops as synonymous with quality. We had reasonably high expectations from the start but it's nevertheless gone considerably better than we envisaged. A particularly encouraging trend has been the enthusiastic response of top United Kingdom wine critics and other international experts," he says.

"Given the higher level of quality assurance they provide, screw tops are a highly significant development for the wine industry worldwide. For the moment, the trend is being driven by ourselves and the Australians. But other "New World" producers are watching us closely, as are some of the European producers," Ross Lawson adds.

For further information, please contact:

Erica Crawford Kim Crawford Wines 09 529 0804 021 386 140

John Forrest Forrest Estate Winery 03 572 9084 021 477 502

Ross Lawson Lawsons Dry Hills Wines 03 578 7674

Released by Ian Morrison, Matter of Fact Communications Tel: 09 575 3223, Fax: 09 575 3220, Email: matfact@ww.co.nz

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