The history of 'Yalumba & screw-cap' closure spans more than three decades. The first screw-cap used at Yalumba was the Stelcap in 1970. The original Stelcap used a cork layer and paper, and then after that an expanded polyethylene layer. A cork was used under these caps.
Stelvin® was commercially introduced into Australia by ACI in 1976. The difference between this and the Stelcap being the wadding material which, in the case of Stelvin®, consisted of a layer of tin adhered to a backing material, with the tin being covered by a layer of PVDC – this PVDC was the wine contact layer. The original design was French, produced by Le Bouchage Mechanique (LBM).
Yalumba was instrumental in the introduction of Stelvin® as our then Production Director, Peter Wall AM, originally approached LBM in 1964 about an alternative sealing system for wine bottles. Peter, who has since retired from Yalumba, almost single-handedly drove the development of the Stelvin® closure.
Yalumba and a group of other wineries (Hardys, McWilliams, Penfolds, Seppelt, Brown Bros & Tahbilk) were involved in developing and proving up the concept from about 1973, first using it commercially in 1976.
Unfortunately, while the wine industry was excited about the screw-cap, wine consumers were less so, seeing the metal cap as an indication of a lower quality product. As a result many of these wines that had been sealed under screw-cap, reverted to cork.
Screw-cap eliminates the possibility of wine taint from cork and, as there is not a lot of the sealing polymer in contact with the wine, flavour absorption from the closure is not an issue. Screw-cap is a wonderful seal for ensuring great bottle ageing of appropriate white wines, particularly Riesling. Screw-cap removes all the problems associated with using closures that are “stuffed” into a bottle neck. The internal bore of a bottle is not a controlled surface during the bottle making process, whereas the outside surface of a bottle is. As the seal does not allow any air into the bottle at all, the wine undergoes a slow, but perfect bottle ageing process.
“It offers the perfect environment, providing consistency and not allowing oxygen to influence the wine”, says Louisa Rose, Yalumba’s Senior Winemaker.
It was not until the 2000 vintage that Yalumba went back to screw-cap and released the premium Hand Picked Eden Valley Riesling under a Stelvin® closure. Since then several industry leaders are turning to screw-cap, as momentum and demand accelerates. Jeffrey Grosset, one of Australia’s most highly regarded winemakers from the Clare Valley, now offers his entire Grosset range under screw-cap, including his red wines and led the charge in encouraging other Clare Valley winemakers to follow suit.
In August 2002, Yalumba Proprietor Robert Hill-Smith joined forces with Clare winemaker extraordinaire, Jeffrey Grosset to create a new Eden Valley Riesling, Mesh Eden Valley Riesling. Given both Grosset's and Yalumba's history with Stelvin® screw-cap closures, it was only natural that this wine should be bottled under screw-cap. For more information head to the mesh website.
Yalumba has watched the markets adoption of the screw-cap closure with interest. "Acceptance of the screw-cap has grown significantly, and continues to grow, amongst the wine industry and its consumers, particularly at the top end of the market", says Robert Hill-Smith.
Yalumba has extended its portfolio of wines sealed with a screw-cap closure even further, in particular, to Viognier. “Viognier, which seems particularly prone to flavour modification by cork, no doubt benefits from a screw-cap seal,” says Winemaker Louisa Rose.
"The screw-cap has probably not yet been developed to its ultimate potential - we could (and will) make improvements over time to enable it to function better as a wine bottle closure. Its commercial failure in the late 70s, early 80s, has resulted in the closure we see today being not much different to the closures used back then - a bit like a 20 year old car", says Louisa.