Australia's biggest producers are converting to screwcap on some of their wines – exclusively for UK supermarket Tesco.

Lindemans, Penfolds, Rosemount, Jacob’s Creek and Hardys are rebottling and re-closing some of their key lines – including Lindemans Bin 95 Sauvignon Blanc, Penfolds Rawson’s Retreat Riesling, Rosemount Semillon-Chardonnay, Jacob’s Creek Dry Riesling and Hardys Varietal Range Merlot.

All these wines have been previously sealed with plastic corks, and will go to screwcaps just for Tesco, which will launch them at its Spring ‘Wine Festival’ in April.

Persuading such major producers to change to screwcap was an uphill task, Helen McGinn, product development manager for Tesco, told

‘There was a job of convincing to be done,’ she said. ‘One of the biggest challenges was to persuade ACI, Australia’s main glass manufacturer, to work with producers on the design and manufacture of new bottles.’

The supermarket now has around 30 wines in screwcap – and they are not by any means high-volume lines. The range includes New Zealand’s Jackson Estate Sauvignon Blanc at £8.99 (€14.50), and even Petit Chablis and Tesco Claret Reserve.

The caps themselves have been produced to high specifications, with longer ‘aprons’ and newly designed bottles. The idea is that the screwcap should not be too obvious, giving the bottles a smarter look than the traditional gold screwcap.

Tesco has made the move ‘to break the association of screwcaps and cheap wine,’ because it believes levels of cork taint are unacceptable, and that plastic stoppers are not perfect but an excellent alternative. McGinn said, ‘if as many faulty cans of baked beans were found as bottles of wine, it would be on the TV news. We have to break the mould.’

The supermarket is convinced that people are coming round to the idea of plastic closures and screwcaps in more expensive wines, but still reckon the public needs educating.

‘When we launch these wines we are going to put out a lot of customer information at the same time,’ McGinn said. ‘We are really going to make a very big noise about it.’

Written by Adam Lechmere21 March 2002