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Monday May 13, 2002

Grosset Gaia 2000 Available in Stelvin

The Grosset Gaia 2000, to be released on June 1st 2002, will be available in both Stelvin* closure and cork. Distribution of the wine under Stelvin is expected to be 30% of (Australian) restaurant and cellar door sales, slightly lower (25%) in retail outlets with smaller quantities allocated to export markets.

The reason for offering this option is simple. Due to the recent availability of the highest quality screwcap bottles and closures, a premium red wine such as Grosset Gaia can now be made available to consumers 100% free of taint from the closure, quality assured, without compromising the ability of the wine to mature in the bottle.

Since introducing the two Grosset Riesling wines in Stelvin in 2000, further research into the technical issues has occurred. In addition to the very significant Australian Wine Research Institute report on closures, I have thoroughly investigated the more practical aspects of applying this technology. My conclusions are that, while this relatively new application of technology requires a certain level of expertise (which in some cases has had to be learnt through experience) the diligent commercial use of screwcaps has proved to be technically flawless.

I believe fellow producers, trade and consumers appreciate it is now clear that screwcaps in their current form are a superior closure to cork or synthetics for premium white wine. There is, however, less appreciation of the closure's appropriateness to premium red wine, despite strong evidence supporting its use, and the absence of any scientific basis for claims of inappropriateness for use on any wine type.

I accept that while the retreat of residual consumer prejudice to the closure will be slower in the case of red wine than white, it will nevertheless happen; as more respected producers adopt the closure. The need for the change is becoming clear to a greater number of consumers, as the unacceptability of current levels of cork taint (occurring equally in red and white wines) is increasingly acknowledged. Certainly the change, in my case, is the result of an urgent need to adopt a closure that meets the standard of quality control I employ in every other aspect of wine production.

The introduction of screwcaps on premium wine represents the most significant qualitative gain our Industry has experienced in recent times. I firmly believe that careful analysis shows screwcaps are an appropriate high quality closure for all premium wine, and with further Industry support, this fact will soon be more broadly acknowledged. In the meantime, consumers will have the opportunity (if they choose the Stelvin option) of drinking Grosset Gaia 2000, confident that every bottle opened will be free of cork taint! The release of Gaia 2000 will mean that more than 70% of the Grosset production will be available under Stelvin. To the best of my knowledge, this represents an unprecedented commitment by a premium producer from any country, to this closure. Jeffrey Grosset

* "Stelvin" is a brand of "Rotel" screwcap that meets new International standards. The term "screwcap(s)" is used here to refer to all brands of screwcap that meet these standards Response to the following advertisement appearing in Australian general press in May 2002:

"There's one perfect accompaniment for every wine. Our enjoyment of food is enhanced by serving it with the right wine. And our enjoyment of wine is enhanced by finding the right cork in the bottle - a real cork. Only a real cork makes you feel that the winemaker has gone to the trouble of getting every detail right. So next time you buy a bottle of wine, insist on a real cork. Because there's only one person who should be removing the cork, and that's you. Find out more at Real cork. Irreplaceable."

"Programa Operacional da Economia" / "Uniao Europeia Fundo Europeu de Desenvolvimento Regional"

It is not cork in itself that is the problem. It is, of course, cork taint, the Cork Industry's attitude that we should tolerate it, and the associated current marketing campaign, that are offensive.

In my opinion, the latest advertising reflects the desperation of a supplier of a product that no longer meets the quality standards of a modern wine industry.

The Australian Wine Industry is still a leader in quality and innovation, and producers like me (Grosset) are working hard to remain at the leading edge; you could say, "working hard on getting every detail right". The cork Industry, on the other hand, has been left behind.

The advertisement states that cork "makes you feel that the winemaker has gone to the trouble of getting every detail right". That would, of course, be correct if it were referring to screwcaps**, not cork. To me, a 1% failure or contamination is unacceptable. If even the best quality corks are worse than that, then I cannot see how the use of cork is compatible with "working on getting every detail right".

The horse and cart was irreplaceable two centuries ago, and perhaps the fax machine two decades ago, but not anymore. The same is true of cork. The use of screwcaps by premium producers, especially in Australia, has forever changed our attitudes towards cork.

The Cork Industry should acknowledge that there are now new standards which our customers and we have come to adopt, and should lift their standards accordingly. I believe that accomplishing that challenge, rather than glossy marketing campaigns, is the Cork Industry's only hope for the future.

Jeffrey Grosset

**The term "screwcap(s)" is used here to refer to all brands of "Rotel" screwcap that meet new International standards.