screw tops2 - Getting some closure

Could US wine drinkers finally be ready to embrace screw-caps?

In the UK and Australia, getting consumers to accept screw-cap closures turned out to be rather less problematic than the wine industry dared to imagine. In the USA, cork is still the closure of choice, but there are signals that screw-caps are gradually shaking off their downmarket image.

The numbers are still against screw-caps, however. Two thirds of regular wine drinkers in the USA are card-carrying fans of cork, with just over two in 10 happy to buy wine with screw-caps. Even synthetic corks are more popular, just about.

There are several reasons why cork should retain such high approval ratings, many of them discussed in the new Closures Report USA, published by Wine Intelligence. One is that wine drinking is not yet a mainstream consumer activity in the USA: fewer than 40% of American adults drink wine at least once a month, compared to more than 70% in the UK and Australia. For consumers who regard wine as an occasional treat, popping a cork remains a big part of the ceremony.

Despite this seeming rejection of screw-caps in the USA, it would be wrong to suggest that Americans are anti-screw-caps. A recent Wine Intelligence survey found that more people buy wines with screw-caps than say they like this type of closure. In fact, more than a third of regular wine drinkers in the USA had bought wines with screw-caps in the preceding four weeks.

It’s true to say that Americans are more likely to dislike screw-caps than real or synthetic corks, but 45% of regular wine drinkers are neutral on the subject. While the other forms of closures have been achieving fairly steady approval ratings over the past five years, there has been a subtle,  but discernible increase in those saying they like screw-caps. It’s risen from 19% to 22%.

Evidence of a revolution? Probably not. But as American consumers begin to shake off perceptions about screw-caps being suitable only for low-quality wine, the closures market in the USA could perhaps become a genuine three-horse race.