New closures do double duty

New closures do double duty – new wine closure technologies

Bottle closures have become hot topic No. 1 in the wine industry. Everyone has an opinion, but not too many people have answers. Even former Wines & Vines Wine Writer of the Year Hugh Johnson has weighed in on the side of screwcaps. (See winesandvines.com for that story.)

A new Napa company, Gardner Technologies, has developed a series of new closure technologies that might provide some answers to all the concerns. Based on these patented technologies, the revolutionary new MetaCork[TM] and MetaSeal[TM] closures could have a profound impact on the wine closure business. The company was founded by Dr. William Gardner, professor emeritus at the College of Engineering, UC Davis.

The first product will come to market in early summer. The MetaCork[TM] uses a natural or synthetic cork in the neck of the bottle, but will not require a corkscrew of any kind. Using a uniquely-threaded but otherwise traditional-looking bottle combined with an anchor set in the cork, a consumer can remove the cork with a simple turn of the capsule. The appearance of the MetaCork[TM] is virtually indistinguishable from the traditional cork and foil capsule and, once the cork is removed, a cap detaches from the capsule and can be used to reseal the bottle. The capsule is designed for drip-resistant pouring when threaded back onto the bottle.

This user-friendly closure could be an answer to the wine industry’s concern that wine may be too intimidating to marginal wine consumers. Bob Hendrickson, president of Republic Beverage Company in Texas, is one who agrees with that analysis. “It is a real-world approach to getting more consumers interested in wine,” he says.

Gardner, the product’s inventor, said, “I wanted to make wine bottles easier to open while meeting the marketers’ demands for visual appearance, but I also wanted to solve the winemakers’ concerns about quality and product consistency.” He also realized that he had improved the closure technology so much that the cork itself was now an option for the winery, and not a requirement. “Wineries have real concerns about TCA, leakage, oxygen permeation and deterioration over time,” Gardner says.

Gardner’s second product, the MetaSeal[TM], to be released this fall, uses a similar threaded capsule to create a perfect seal with neither a cork nor traditional screwcap involved. Like the MetaCork[TM], the MetaSeal[TM] can be made of injection-molded plastic or other materials such as copper or aluminum. Not only are all of these materials recyclable, they offer an unlimited spectrum of colors and finishes. The same bottle can be used for both closures.

“For the first time ever there is greater brand differentiation to offer marketers,” says Kerry Manahan-Ehlow, vice president of sales and marketing for Gardner Technologies. “We know what winemakers want from a closure–they want perfect performance: no TCA or other off-odors, no leaks and no cork deterioration.” Manahan-Ehlow will present the new closures during a session on new technology at the Unified show later this month.

The industry has resisted the use of screwcaps for fine wine primarily because of consumer perceptions that screwcaps indicate a lower quality wine. The MetaSeal[TM] provides performance that exceeds the basic screwcap on an enological level, and still meets the needs of the consumer marketplace.

Gardner Technologies has worked with consumers as well as wineries, restaurateurs, distributors and other industry leaders to prove the demand and appeal for the company’s products. According to William Borghetti, Gardner Technologies president & CEO, “never before has a product for our industry been designed from the ground up to appeal to so many constituencies. We recognized early on that our industry is not just the winery and the consumer. You also have to appeal to retailers, restaurants and distrihutors.”

Rob Prough, president of Epic Wines in California, is typical of distributors who have struggled with both consumer resistance to screwcaps and the problems of natural corks. “I believe that this product will give a significant competitive advantage to any winery in the marketplace, for any category of wines whether they are everyday or luxury wines,” Prough says.

Many in the wine industry seem to agree. “We have been amazed with the response to our products,” Borghetti says. “Not just from smaller wineries, but from some of the biggest names in the business. Allied Domecq Wines USA, Brown-Forman’s Fetzer and Southcorp have expressed interest. Apparently, many more are eager to he part of the second phase rollout of the new closures.

When told that all this sounds a bit too good to be true, Borghetti responded, “Bill Gardner brought a completely new perspective to the closure challenge, and he solved the problem with great creativity and superb engineering.” For more information, contact Gardner Technologies at (707) 226-2400 or visit the Web site gardnertech.com.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Hiaring Company

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