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Major Step For Wine Industry

Our wine industry has taken a major step forward this weekend with the introduction of twist-open, screw-top bottles.

Kim Crawford's 2001 Marlborough Dry Riesling has become the first premium quality New Zealand wine to be released onto the home market with "Stelvin cap" closures instead of corks. The wine was launched on Sunday night at a "Midnight Tasting" at Central Auckland's "Spy Bar". It will be available in selected wine shops and restaurants from today (Monday) onwards.

Kim Crawford describes the move as dictated by concerns over quality and consistency and by the need to anticipate and stay ahead of international market trends.

"Our over-riding concern is that far too much wine gets spoiled by cork contamination. For example, at last year's Air New Zealand Wine Awards, 32 percent of the Riesling-class wines were deemed 'corked' by the judges.

"Some corked wine is more or less drinkable although it doesn't taste as the winemaker intended. But you can also open a bottle and be greeted by that all too familiar scent of musty cardboard or wet carpet. There just has to be a better alternative!" he says. "Cork also fails to provide wine bottles with totally airtight seals. As a result, oxygen slowly enters the bottle, giving the wine over time an unwanted nuttiness. This 'oxidised' wine browns rapidly and looses its fruit flavours, " says Mr Crawford, adding that oxidation can be even more of a problem when plastic corks are used, as over a long period of time they lose there elasticity and that this can prevent wine from ageing "gracefully". According to Kim Crawford, screw-topped bottles will soon be a market expectation for many "new world" wine varieties.

"The move to screw-tops is already gathering pace in Australia and California. This isn't surprising, as the Stelvin cap seals-in the full, fruity and natural taste that is so important a feature of the best new world wines, including those from New Zealand." he says.

"Screw-tops are particularly suitable for Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and other unwooded wines, such as Unoaked Chardonnay as well as for aromatic wines such as Pinot Gris and Gewurtztraminer. "A number of other leading New Zealand producers are expected to launch screw-tops on the home market in the very near future. There used to be a public perception that this type of bottling belonged at the cheaper end of the market. But, increasingly, screw-tops are becoming associated with quality wines, particularly amongst younger drinkers," says Kim Crawford. Mr Crawford adds that screw-topped wines are increasingly popular in the United Kingdom, which is our wine industry's most significant overseas market. Of 1,000 cases of screw-top bottled Kim Crawford 2001 Marlborough Dry Riesling, approximately 40 percent will be exported to help meet the ever-swelling UK demand for high quality, fresh and fruity "new world" wines.

Ends

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