California winemaker Randall Grahm has spent half a million dollars putting two of his entry-level wines under screwcap – a move he describes as possibly 'hubristic'.

Grahm, the inspired eccentric of highly-respected Santa Cruz winery Bonny Doon, has decided on the Stelvin screwcap closure for the 90,000 cases of his 2001 Big House Red and Big House White, part of the entry-level Ca’ del Solo range.

‘The press is behind us and the retailers are behind us – it’s just the consumers we don’t know about,’ he told decanter.com.

‘It could be massive hubris. I have a feeling of infallibility which might well be misplaced optimism.’ The cost of switching to screwcap is considerable, necessitating US$300,000 of new bottles and a US$100,000 capping machine.

UK distributor Morris and Verdin, which carries Big House Red, is perfectly optimistic. ‘The kind of customer that buys Bonny Doon will be quite happy trying screwcap. Randall’s been doing adventurous things for years and he can always back his ideas with good reasoning,’ spokeswoman Clem Bennett said.

Grahm is convinced cork is defunct as a viable stopper for wine. He said, ‘There is no debate. Cork manufacturers are out of here but they don’t want to leave. The millions they spend on advertising should be spent on making better cork.’

Next year the rest of the Ca’ del Solo range will be screwcapped, followed by the premium Rhône varietal Cigare Volant in 2004 – ‘Depending on the take- up of the others,’ Grahm said.

Written by Adam Lechmere11 July 2002