St. Helena Star

560 560 Pure Tin Capsules
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Although every bottle of wine has a capsule covering a cork, only 3 to 4 percent of the wineries in the world use pure tin capsules, which are recyclable, ecological and cannot be reused once they are removed from a bottle. In the Napa Valley, Shafer, Opus One, Boyd and Joseph Phelps are among those who use pure tin capsules.
On a certain day in October in an unnamed place somewhere in the Napa Valley, a group of master sommeliers gathered to discuss not wine as expected, but the wine’s capsules, which were made of pure tin.

According to these experts, the pure tin capsules were noticed as being top-notch. As were the wines, which included Rioja’s Muga, Olivier Leflaive Meursault, Opus One and Shafer, according to a news release.

The gathering was the start of an awareness campaign named “Mark of Distinction” designed to highlight pure tin capsules and sponsored by the Tin Capsule Committee, which is made up of three tin capsule manufacturers and ITRI, the world authority on tin, comprising tin producers and smelters.

That group has hired Napa’s Balzac Communications to get the word out and to produce a series of promotional events and activities in the United States.

Catherine Bugue, account manager for Balzac Communications (and the Star’s excellent wine writer) is a part of that awareness campaign. She recently spoke about the tin capsules and their advantages over lunch in the illy cafe at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. “Although there are many different ways to dress a bottle, we find the noble material of pure tin is one of the most aesthetically beautiful,” she said. “Not only is it a natural material, but it is ecological, recyclable, and it is one of the best closures for sommeliers as they say they are least likely to get cut as the wine is being opened. That’s a big, big plus for sommeliers.”

Bugue said the market share for pure tin is pretty small – only 3 to 4 percent of wineries worldwide use pure tin closures, which Bugue said is the highest quality closure that can be used to dress up one’s bottle. “The capsule is the very first thing a consumer sees when they go to open a bottle,” she adds. “If you have quality at every level, then you just can’t use inferior materials.”

Napa Valley winemakers spend a lot of money to produce top-quality wines, both in the vineyard and in the winery, Bugue said. “If you have a beautiful wine, like many Napa Valley cabs, you really want to dress your bottle in the finest material. That’s what consumers see first. They open the bottle, see the quality and that’s going to reverberate through their impression of the wine.

“If a consumer goes to the capsule and sees this plastic or horribly fitting capsule, you’ve sort of degraded everything you’ve spent before that. It really is the first step to the consumers’ thoughts on quality.”

She added, “If there is quality at every level, an inferior capsule is going to get noticed.”

At the October event, Master Sommelier Gilles de Chambure said, “The pure tin capsule is one other way to create an image; to identify your brand; to tell the story of your wine.”

Christie Dufault, a former sommelier and a lead educator at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone’s beverage program, also attended the event. She said, “Every wine has a story and I think that’s conveyed in the packaging.”

Bugue listed other benefits of a pure tin capsule including color saturation and richness of its texture, its flexibility and malleability, and since it is produced in an ancient production method, it cannot be copied or reused. “In this time of counterfeit wine bottles, using a pure tin capsule helps ensure a wine’s authenticity. If you tear off a tin capsule, you cannot reuse it and you can’t copy it or the production method.”

A part of a master sommelier’s job is to authenticate bottles in wine cellars and to authenticate the wine, Bugue added. “It’s really important to them to know if they see a pure tin capsule on a bottle, they know they can trust what’s inside the bottle is what the label says. If you try to take a pure tin capsule off this bottle and put it on another bottle, you can’t do it and make it look right,” she said.

Besides Dufault and de Chambure, other master sommeliers at the October event included Tim Gaiser, Steve Morey, Chris Blanchard and Peter Granoff, as well as Peter Marks, master of wine, and Paul Wagner, founder of Balzac Communications and a local wine instructor.

Pure tin capsules are available in south Napa at Lafitte Cork & Capsule and Ramondin Group. The three manufacturers in the Tin Capsule Committee are Coliege Metalco Emballages, Ramondin Group and Rivercap SA. For details visit

2015 February 24