Leading Barossa Winery Returns To Cork

Leading Barossa Valley winery Rusden Wines has announced it is giving up on screwcap closures after five years as a result of persistent quality control issues and will now bottle its entire product range under cork.

In an article in the July edition of Australia’s Wine Business Magazine (WBM), Rusden winemaker Christian Canute said the winery had experienced a range of problems with its wine under screwcap and the decision to return to cork was based purely on technical performance. “After a five year trial of screwcap it has become clear that cork is best for our
wines,” Canute told WBM.  “Our wines are handmade and bottled without fining or filtration. Under a screwcap I have noticed the wines ‘sweat’, producing overly dominant reductive characters, a problem we have never had under cork.”

Rusden is among the top echelon of Australian family-owned wineries and is well respected in both the domestic and international market. It has been highly-rated by Robert Parker consistently over the last 10 years with its Black Guts Shiraz averaging above 95 points during that period.

Canute said Australian sommeliers had provided feedback that confirmed the reductive, ‘sweaty’ characters he was experiencing in the winery with the wine under screwcap. Trade customers were also experiencing a great deal of bottle variation, which again Rusden had not encountered with its wines bottled under cork. “When I saw Rusden losing customers because of this, I realised something needed to be done,” Canute said.

Following further technical analysis and tasting Rusden determined that the screwcap closure was the cause of the problems and when the entire 2009 vintage of its Driftsand grenache/shiraz was affected decided to change the
closure. “As I had noticed an incredible improvement in the performance of cork in all our other wines, it was obvious to me that the move back to cork would be the best direction to head in,” Canute told WBM. “From a technical point of view, from a sustainability point of view, from a consumer point of view and from an aspirational, premium factor point of view, cork is the best companion to wine.”

Canute said he was aware of other winemakers who were unhappy with the way their wines aged under screwcap and questioned why the Australian industry tried to sell screwcap over and above Australian wine. “Any winemaker should be able to have the choice of using the closure they see as best for their product without negativity surrounding their decision. I reckon we are on the right track thanks to companies like Amorim who have invested so much into producing quality cork which should allow winemakers
to have another option at their fingertips they can rely upon with confidence,”

Canute said in the WBM interview. “Amorim has spent millions on improving cork recently and I am completely confident in their product.” Canute said 50 per cent of his customers were in favour of the move back to cork and the rest didn’t care as long as he was doing what is best for the wines. “But then again, I talk to my customers who are in love with Rusden’s wines, instead of in love with the great Australian closure debate,” he said.

The general manager of Amorim Australasia, Kym Wilsdon, said the move back to cork was gaining momentum. “There has been renewed interest in cork in Australia in the past 18 months or so due largely to market pressure. Some export markets, particularly China and the US, have shown a strong preference for cork,” he said.

In June 2011 Australia’s largest independent wine services supplier, Portavin, said it was experiencing a return to bottling under cork by Australian wineries due to growing interest in the Chinese market. Portavin said the use of cork closures, while still a small percentage of its overall production, was growing and was noticeably more active than it had been for a number of years.

“The number of new and return customers we have seen in recent months is encouraging. It’s clear that the market data and media commentary about certain markets’ closure preferences is being given due consideration by Australian winemakers,” Mr Wilsdon said.