Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Another nail in the coffin of 'traditional' packaging...

Ok, there's been much ado about different types of bottle closures.

The arguments from sales personnel and their attendant focus groups generally runs along the lines of "people want a real cork", or "synthetic corks give a cheap look to the package" among others...

But according to some research at Oregon State U., consumers can't taste the difference between those different closures.

Winemakers argue about the advantages of natural corks versus synthetic corks or metal screwtops, but the average wine drinker can't tell any difference in product quality, according to Oregon State University researchers.

In a blind taste test conducted by OSU's Food Innovation Center in Portland, wine drinkers could not tell the difference in the taste of the same wine bottled with a natural, synthetic or a metal closure.

A companion study found that many consumers associate metal screwtops with inferior wine, and some people have reservations about synthetic corks. Consumers in the OSU study were willing to pay a higher price for wine topped with a natural cork.

While there's still much to do in the areas of researching the effects of different closures on long term aging, as well as educating the masses about the various types of closures (& their relative advatages/disadvantages), it would seem that the primary argument from the winemakers against using alternative closures ("it'll change the product's flavors") is being laid to rest.
At least for wines that're consumed fairly quickly after bottling or release - and that's the majority of wine produced in this country (~95%+).

(I'll add that I've participated in some tastings of this nature, and while I can attest to the fact that trained individuals can detect the differences in these packages, they are far too subtle for everyday consumers to ever have to worry about.)


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