Kiwi Pioneer Dr. John Forrest was in Vancouver last week for the New Zealand Wine Fair. I recall when he first came to Vancouver and introduced the then very novel (and much mistrusted!) idea of a screwcap closure. After all, wine was still very much the purvey of the (self perceived) elite. And cork snobs were never going to admit there was a real problem.
At the time, Forrest poured Sauvignon Blanc from identical batches of his Forrest Estate, side by side, one under cork and one under screwcap. The results were pretty convincing—so much so that the wine press got firmly behind the idea—and consumer acceptance of the screwcap took hold in BC a whole lot faster than elsewhere.
A screwcap ‘Epiphany’
I asked Dr. Forrest about the moment he realised screwcaps were for real. Here’s what he had to say!
It wasn’t long before the Okanagan’s Tinhorn Creek also gave consumers a chance to compare wines side by side: Oldfield Collection Merlot 2001 was packaged in pairs—under cork and screw cap. A couple of years later, the winery switched everything to screwcap.
These days, thankfully, we take screwcaps for granted: a new generation of wine lovers has arrived. And most if not everyone appreciates the convenience of not having to carry a corkscrew. Let alone risk discovering that long anticipated bottle of Pinot is corked.
It wasn’t always that way…
The Kiwi Screwcap Wine Seal Initiative eventually merged with an international effort. However, one of its earliest actions responded to wide criticism that the undoing of a screwcap lacked the ‘flair and cachet’ of removing a cork. To that end the committee drafted a tongue-in-cheek leaflet, complete with diagram and instructions to provide the most ‘aesthetic’ experience as follows:
“Hold the bottle in your right hand at a slight angle across your body. With your left hand, grip the neck/collar of the screwcap with your hand underneath, thumb on top. Next, simply twist the bottle towards you and you will hear the ‘click’ as the seal easily breaks. Finally, a swift turn of the cap will remove it.”
These days, thanks to the Marlborough Kiwis, screwcaps are no longer even an issue. And those estimated 7 to 10 percent of all wines being corked have all but disappeared.