Thought screw caps were the solution to cork taint? Now there's a new option. A division of aluminum company Alcoa has invented a resealable glass stopper called Vino-Lok that it says offers a screw cap's advantages, but is more appealing to consumers.
"It's real glass, with a liner that's the same as screw caps," said Thomas Strieder, business development manager of Alcoa's closure division in Germany. "It has no taste and allows no deterioration [of the wine]."
The closure requires a specially designed wine bottle. An aluminum cover on top is removed to reveal the glass plug, which is simply pulled out by hand and can be popped back in. If screw caps call to mind cheap beverages, the Vino-Lok evokes a decanter stopper.
"The screw cap is perfect from a quality point of view, but it has an image problem," Strieder said. "Wine people don't like threads."
Initial tests of Vino-Lok at two major German wine laboratories have shown enough promise that wineries are now testing it. In ongoing tests, bottles are being subjected to heat, vibration and aging to ensure that the stopper holds up.
Among the first wineries to try Vino-Lok is Weingut P.J. Valckenberg in Germany, which has manually stoppered 2,800 bottles of its Riesling Spätlese Trocken Rheinhessen Wormser Liebfrauenstift-Kirchenstück 2003, which retails for $29. "Getting rid of cork is our No. 1 priority," said Christian Witte, director of U.S. marketing and sales. The stoppers are currently expensive, he said, but once large-scale production begins they should cost the same as good cork.
Valckenberg plans to use Vino-Lok for mid- to high-quality wines. Witte said customer response was positive during a recent sales trip to the United States. "People like the stopper as an object. They stand there tasting the wine with one hand and rolling the stopper around in the other." Look for Valckenberg's first Vino-Lok release in the United States this March.
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