Screw-off ... caps that is!

07/22/2004

wine_screw_top_2Interesting article about screw-caps on Wine Spectator. Seems that wineries have been experimenting with screw-caps as a way to reduce the incidence of cork taint in their wines

Hogue Cellars, one of the largest producers in Washington, has joined the rising tide of wineries that are switching to screw-caps, after completing an in-house study examining closure alternatives.

I don’t know about you, but for me, one of the mystiques of enjoying wine is the ceremonial aspects of uncorking the bottle. Of course there are times when I want just-a-drink but there are moments when the tradition of uncorking a bottle of wine adds to the anticipation of the first sip. Anticipation! Ah... Slowly but with finesses and elegance the cork is removed. It is presented for inspection. And then and only then is the first taste poured. Divas, this could be the start of a magical, romantic moment.

Okay, enough of the romance. Let's get down to marketing. After listening to Jack Trout last week, couldn't help but wonder what his take would be regarding this change in traditional packaging. What does a screw-off wine cap say to you? College days? Street people? Airline wine? Does it change your perception about the product?

Does something as simple as how you open a bottle of wine impact your perception of the value of the vino? Now think...same product. Would you expect to pay the same for a bottle with a screw-top as you would for the wine with a cork closure? Or would you anticipate it would cost less? Would twisting off a metal cap influence your experience with the brand?

Remember the Coke fiasco in the '80's? After millions of dollars spent on research, it was determined that consumers liked the taste of "new coke" better than the taste of original coke. What's a company to do? Out with the old and in with the new? You betcha. However, the Coca Cola Company, for all it's marketing brilliance, forgot one teeny, tiny aspect of branding. The emotional attachment of consumers to the brand. Consumers' passionate out cry is what makes case studies and marketing professors had material for how not to do it.

"The simple fact is that all the time and money and skill poured into consumer research on the new Coca-Cola could not measure or reveal the deep and abiding emotional attachment to original Coca-Cola felt by so many people . . . " Donald Keough (then the company's President and Chief Operating Officer).

The wine industry has information about consumers' reaction to the new type of closure. Research conducted by Wine Intelligence reveals that about 52% of American wine drinkers reject screw-caps. Are wineries playing Russian roulette with their brands?

"Uncorking wine is a bit like applying lipstick, I decided. It's sort of inconvenient, but I sort of like it." Carol Emert, San Francisco Chronicle. Damn...wish I said that!

Perhaps I'm just a bit of a snob, but wine makers please don't take my corks away!

A Diva Cue from General Colin Powell - "If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in the little matters." What "little things" have you changed, thought were insignificant, but impacted your customers' experience with your brand?

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Comments

Toby,

I don't know, I drink a lot of wine and corks are really a pain in the ass. However, I agree that it's a nice ceremonial effect when with a group, but for my daily drinker stuff, I'd be happy with a twist cap. Any high end bottle of wine should have a cork though.

Posted by: Dana on Jul 22, 2004 11:54:26 AM

Ah, two of my favorite topics: brands and wine!

I like the idea of synthetic corks as an alternative. Sure, they are a pain in the arse to get out sometimes, but they overcome the problem of "corked" wines and they maintain the dignity of the wine bottle.

I, too, like the cermony of removing the cork from a bottle of wine. From the perception side of the equation, screw tops have usually been associated with low-cost, jug wines so there is definitely a perception to overcome if premium wine brands go to screw tops.

Alas, if the industry as a whole decides to go to screw caps we will have no choice so the smartest thing they could do would be to take the leap in a unified fashion. (But the "traditionalists will never give up their corks!)

Dave
Vineyard Manager
www.BrandTrellis.com

Posted by: Dave on Jul 22, 2004 10:33:07 PM

I agree with the winemeister: synthetic corks are the way to go. The Australians are doing it with synthetic, and they really work well. I've never had a problem getting one out (unlike some crumbly natural corks).

Let's face it: wine is a sensory thing, and it starts with uncorking.

I wouldn't waste the calories on screw cap wine.

Posted by: Anita Campbell on Jul 28, 2004 7:07:55 PM

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