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January 23, 2009

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Lenn,

Nice review for a hard-working family operation. I wonder if Art Hunt can jump on this comment thread and explain closure decisions. 2005 was such a beautiful vintage and ideally everything would be closed with natural cork, but economic realities don't always line up with our desires.

Anyway, cheers to Hunt Country.

Dear Lenn and Evan,

The cork issue has been the subject of lots of lively debate here. About 10 years ago we were forced to go to synthetic corks because the natural corks had a defect rate approaching 10%. Since then, the international cork industry has spent millions to reduce the rate to less than 1%. The 05 Cab Franc was a turning point for us. We decided that in future we would bottle our wines that fall into the “super-premium” category with natural cork. While over 90% of wines in America are consumed within a week of purchase, we and other Finger Lakes wineries now have wines that might fall into that remaining 10%, i.e. they might be cellared for many years. We have found that the synthetic corks don't seem to impart negative flavors, but over cellaring periods of 3 years or more, they begin to remove some of the natural flavors and vibrancy of the wine. On the other hand, with natural corks, customers run the risk of the occasional corked bottle. We now spend about 4 times what we used to spend per natural cork to get acceptable ones, about $0.50/cork, which amounted to over $40,000 last year. While most super-premium wines will remain largely with natural corks for the foreseeable future, I would guess that much of the synthetic cork usage will shift toward screwcaps, for both cost and quality reasons. I hope your readers will chime in; we would be interested to hear their thoughts.

Art Hunt
Hunt Country Vineyards

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