By James Atkinson
About 18 million bottles of Champagne are wasted each year due to cork taint, according to a top wine critic, who has welcomed Australian winemaker De Bortoli's pioneering move to release the world's first screw-capped sparkling wines.
Wine writer Tyson Stelzer told journalists at this week's launch of the new De Bortoli wines that about five to six per cent of the Champagnes he tastes are "corked or distinctly 'corky'".
"Comparing that with other international Champagne writers there seems to be fair agreement that it's somewhere between four and six per cent," he said.
"If you do the maths somehow, Champagne ships 320 million bottles a year and that equates to 18 million bottles down the drain."
"At what cost? I reckon it must be at least a billion dollars, possibly $2 billion in corked or cork-tainted Champagne."
"There's probably no more challenging sector of the wine market to pitch an alternative closure than sparkling wines," he said.
"Whether we like it or not, the consumer attachment to the pop of the cork is something that I don't think we should underestimate."
De Bortoli Wines national sales manager, Peter Yeoman added that corked sparkling has hidden cost impacts for winemakers, because consumers who have a bad experience with a brand may not go back to it.
"People turn around and they think there's an issue with the product itself, when it's actually been the closure," he said.