Australia’s latest Master of Wine’s screwcap claim sparks retorts

The Master of Wine dissertation by Australia’s latest MW, Alison Eisermann-Ctercteko, which I mentioned here on October 17, has sparked many retorts. 

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Eisermann’s paper claims 26% of screwcapped wines in retail outlets had physical damage to their caps, and 8.2% and showed significant loss of quality as a result.

English wine blogger Dr Jamie Goode challenged Eisermann in his blog wineanorak, and there were many considered and sensible responses – as there were tweets in response to my posting. The reactions can be summarized as follows:

  • Eisermann measured sulfur depletion in bottles of wine with damaged screwcaps, and although the most damaged caps showed the biggest loss of protective sulfur, they still had good levels after 10 weeks.
  • A tasting panel failed to detect the loss of quality the analyses showed.
  • The incidence of real quality loss due to physical screwcap damage is still small compared to cork taint and oxidation issues in cork-sealed wines.
  • To say 8.2% of bottles were seriously damaged takes no account of the fact that discerning consumers would notice this damage and refrain from buying those bottles (and hopefully, sales assistants would also refrain from selling them).
  • The issue is not so much a screwcap problem as a handling problem.
  • At least damaged screwcaps are obvious to the human eye, whereas the faults of cork are invisible.
  • The 8.2% is easily misinterpreted as meaning 8.2% of ALL screwcapped wines are damaged, which is patently untrue, as it ignores those bottles bought direct from wineries or through channels other than retail shops.

A major US retailer of Aussie wine, Chuck Hayward, said he’d seen far more bottles damaged by corks than by screwcaps, and way fewer wines returned because of such damage. I recommend anyone interested in this subject read the article at wineanorak, and don’t miss the reader responses.

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