An update on corks, screwcaps and consumer preferences
June 11, 2008
In the late-March post Consumers choose... cork? I reported on the the results of the first six weeks since we'd offered on our online order form the option of choosing between cork-finished and screwcap-finished versions of our 2005 Cotes de Tablas. I was surprised that of the first 21 orders we'd received, 15 had chosen to order the cork-finished version. I speculated that the reports of widespread consumer acceptance for screwcap-finished wines, at least for red wines, had been exaggerated.
In a very thoughtful comment, a reader named Russ suggested that I might have influenced customers' choices simply by putting the cork-finished version first on the order form. I agreed to switch the order of the two wines on our online order form, and have been meaning to report back on the results in the three-plus months since.
Russ may have had a point. Since early March, we've received 135 orders that have included the 2005 Cotes de Tablas. Of these orders, 56 (42%) have selected the cork-finished version. 62 (46%) have opted for the screwcapped version. And, perhaps most promisingly, 17 orders (13%) have included both cork and screwcap versions of the wine. This is a much more promising outcome than what we'd seen in the initial 21 orders, and it's great to see a significant percentage wanting to recreate the experiment for themselves.
It also strikes me that the initial sample size of 21 orders was too small to conclude much with any degree of assurance.
On a related note, the more that we taste the screwcap-finished version of the Cotes de Tablas, the more we appreciate the vibrancy and freshness that it gives the wine. It does seem that, at least for Grenache-based reds, screwcap offers an appealing option, and barring any unexpected developments in the next 8 months, our plan is to put the entire production of the 2007 Cotes de Tablas in Stelvin screwcap.
Our conclusion is probably not too surprising; in our experiments (which I wrote about in the summer 2007 post Corks and Screwcaps: Not an open and shut case) we've consistently preferred the vibrancy and freshness of the screwcap finish for our aromatic whites and our Rosé, while preferring the softer, sweeter mouthfeel of the cork finish for our Roussanne-based whites and our Mourvedre- and Syrah-based reds. The Grenache-based Cotes de Tablas, always a lighter, fruitier red, falls somewhere in the middle, and seemed to be the right red wine on which to experiment with screwcaps. And, we are enjoying the evolution of the wine under cork as well. But, when we're equally happy with cork and screwcap, the argument of avoiding a thousand or more TCA-tainted bottles (about 3% of a wine with 3000-case production) becomes overwhelming.