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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Victorwine » Sun Oct 01, 2006 1:08 pm

You’re absolutely correct Thomas P. At present the science of wine maturation is still very much an unknown factor. Advances and developments in the fields of analytical chemistry, microbiology, and molecular biology can (and will IMO) help change the situation.
But I think I can safely state (without much of a debate) that oxygen is both an enemy and friend of wine. (I believe Pasteur stated something like this back in 1873).
Now the question is – How much oxygen is good?

Salute
PS There an interesting series of articles -Part I (posted) and Part II (not yet posted) on the New World Wine Makers website- Oxygen in Winemaking
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Thomas » Sun Oct 01, 2006 2:52 pm

Victorwine wrote:You’re absolutely correct Thomas P. At present the science of wine maturation is still very much an unknown factor. Advances and developments in the fields of analytical chemistry, microbiology, and molecular biology can (and will IMO) help change the situation.
But I think I can safely state (without much of a debate) that oxygen is both an enemy and friend of wine. (I believe Pasteur stated something like this back in 1873).
Now the question is – How much oxygen is good?

Salute
PS There an interesting series of articles -Part I (posted) and Part II (not yet posted) on the New World Wine Makers website- Oxygen in Winemaking


Victor,

When I produced wine I started out deathly afraid of what oxygen can do to hurt and b y the time my winemaking days had ended I was trying to figure out the best ways to make oxygen do what it can do to help.

I suppose there are no one-sided answers, only beliefs, opinions, and technical advancements.
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Thomas » Sun Oct 01, 2006 2:57 pm

TimMc wrote:Hoke,

How often does a bad meal happen at a restaurant...I mean, really.

Neil,

How often does your bad cork scenario happen...? One in a hundred times? One in a thousand times?


Micheal,

The fastest one to open the bottle is not the winner. OK?


Be honest guys, don't you think you are fousing on the wrong end of the telescope? Whip that thing around and see the bigger picture.


Tim,

I have no idea what thing to whip around, but if you read my post above you will get a glimpse into the bigger of the bigger pictures: the fact that cork ruins wine at 4% or more hurts the bottom line. If the cork industry, or general technology can't change that fact, then if I owned a winery I would switch to another bottle closure that could. Whether the screwcap is that closure is arguably up for debate, but the debate is technical, has nothing to do with those ambience things and that popping sound.

As for bad meals in restaurants: obviously, you don't travel for a living. Bad meals are all over the country--good ones are too--but I fail to understand what that has to do with TCA cork taint.
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Sam Platt » Mon Oct 02, 2006 10:02 am

TimMc wrote:Be honest guys, don't you think you are fousing on the wrong end of the telescope? Whip that thing around and see the bigger picture.


Dear Kettle,

You are black.

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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Isaac » Mon Oct 02, 2006 12:46 pm

TimMc wrote:Be honest guys, don't you think you are fousing on the wrong end of the telescope? Whip that thing around and see the bigger picture.
I think you have it backwards, Tim. I think they're concentrating on the wine, while you're concentrating on the closure.
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Glenn Mackles » Mon Oct 02, 2006 2:28 pm

I must admit that I personally enjoy the decorking ritual. I also like the way it is performed in a good restaurant even if much of the ritual is pretty meaningless. The first smell of the wine as the cork is extracted is something that simply feels good and right to me. The cork has been an intrical part the whole experience for hundreds of years. Even just about every wine rack ever built is designed specifically to keep the cork damp. In short, on a emotional level, I would indeed miss corks.

But on the other hand... how much do we pay for the cork? Personal digression.... recently I went to a small dinner party (4 of us) and I was entrusted to bring wine. There were a few bottles for different courses but one I was depending on was a Domaine Serene pinot. The moment the cork came out I knew I was in trouble. And unfortunately I did not have a backup. We just had to do without. Not exactly a tragedy of epic proportions but annoying none the less. The undeniable fact is that some percentage (albeit small) of wine is lost due to faulty corks. And whenever that happens, everybody loses.

What I need to know is how long have screw caps been tested? Right now I absolutely know that I can store wine 10, 15 or more years under cork and I have a damn good chance that it will be just fine when I open it. Have we tested screw caps that long? Has anyone bottled some of the same wine, some under cork and some in screw caps and then compared the two after 5 or say 10 or more years? I suspect some of this testing has been done, but I am unaware of any results.

So while I would miss corks very much, I am willing to consider alternatives. But someone needs to prove to me that I am not giving up anything besides ritual. And that case hasn't really been made to me, at least, not yet. The fact that the producers will make 4% more doesn't really sing to me (I don't think they will pass it on to us). I want to know... from my point of view as a consumer, what's in it for me? OK, I won't get a corked bottle every once in awhile (which I usually return to the appropriate wine pusher when I can remember where I got it). But is the wine going to be as good over time? Is the trade off enough for me to give up something I enjoy and that has been working, not perfectly, but pretty darn well for a long, long time?

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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Hoke » Mon Oct 02, 2006 2:39 pm

Glen:

First, I want to thank you for an intelligent and quite reasonable post, clearly explaining your position regarding corks and alternative closures, yet offering to keep an open mind about both. Refreshing.

Without going into detail (there'll be enough of that coming, I can assure you), I can say that there's lots of information on the pros and cons of cork, as well as the pros and cons of various synthetic closures and the various screwcap-styled closures.

And yes, there's plenty of info on long-term trials under screwcap (and the screwcap/cork comparisons), enough to satisfy me that screwcap will perform for long-term sealing of wines. Much better, more efficiently, more predictably, and more controllably than cork.

The information is out there. And most people who approach the information with an open mind have (sometimes grudgingly) come around to the idea that the screwcap is better than the cork.

Reservations about new things is understandable. So is preference for the old 'tried and true'. But when there's clear evidence that 'tried and true' is actually 'tried...and sadly lacking in true', then it's time to consider viable alternatives.

Me? I just got tired of having my wines spoiled by having tree bark inserted in the bottle neck. When I found out there was a better alternative, I celebrated. Now I purchase screwcapped bottles in preference to cork finished when I can. The accepted 5--8% corkage rate alone for cork is enough to help me make that decision easily. The many other problems associated with cork make the decision necessary.
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Thomas » Mon Oct 02, 2006 2:41 pm

"The fact that the producers will make 4% more doesn't really sing to me..."

Maybe not to you Glenn, but I am sure it makes a lot of sense to people running a business, and wine is a business. Think of all the consumers who have no idea what TCA is, and there are many--they get a wine like that and they start talking to people about how to avoid that wine and maybe that producer. Just like anything else, the romance of wine meets the hard realities of the world. Bank mortgages can't be paid back in romance, unless of course the bank president and the business owner have something going on the side...;)

To your question: I remember somewhere reading that tests on screwcaps vs. cork have been done over a period of about ten years--either in New Z. or Australia. Perhaps one of our Down Unders can elaborate.

P.S. Yes, cork has been in use for hundreds of years, but wine has been around for 8,000 years. In the long view, cork is just another transition product.
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Sam Platt » Mon Oct 02, 2006 3:02 pm

Is there a wine equalivalent of Highly Accelerated Life Testing (HALT)? In the electronics industry we can subject products to temperature extremes and rates of temperature change that simulate as much as 10 years of aging in only 96 hours of testing. It would seem that such a test could be developed for the purpose of comparing the effect of screw caps and cork closures on wine aging.

FWIW - I just returned from Italy where I received cork wines at two different restaurants. In one case I nearly came to blows with a waiter who was refusing to take back a horribly corked Valpolicella. A simple screw cap would have prevented the confrontation.
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Hoke » Mon Oct 02, 2006 3:11 pm

P.S. Yes, cork has been in use for hundreds of years, but wine has been around for 8,000 years. In the long view, cork is just another transition product.


But Thomas, when Tim said "big picture", I don't think he meant THAT big! :D

Your comments are well taken and to the point.

Any company (and not just a wine company) that can improve its bottom line by 4%---and, yes, you and I know very well it's much, much more than 4% when you look at that famous big picture---that's a remarkable figure! People have become business titans for far less.

Those outside the business have virtually no idea how many expensive man hours are spent in quality control for corks alone. And that's primarily for the TCA problem---which may be the least negative impact cork has on wine!

Last night I went out to a pizza place with wife and friend. We ordered a bottle of house Shiraz. The young lady working the table brought the wine, presented it for approval, then twisted the cap with a crisp snap of the wrist.

My wife said, "Yeah! Screwcaps. God bless 'em."

The young lady enthusiastically agreed, commenting that it got rid of a lot of problems, and it sure was nice to have them there when they got really busy too, adding, "You don't know how much we love these screwcapped bottles when you're busy and you have to look around for a corkscrew and hope and pray you don't mess it up trying to get the cork out. Then when you do get it out, if the darned thing is bad and you have to waste more time...and the customer's time... getting another bottle, it's frustrating. I started out thinking these things were just gimmicky....but I love screwcaps now, because it's quick and easy, and I know the wine is going to be good when I open it."

That is a pretty powerful testament.
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Glenn Mackles » Mon Oct 02, 2006 3:52 pm

Thomas wrote:"The fact that the producers will make 4% more doesn't really sing to me..."

Maybe not to you Glenn, but I am sure it makes a lot of sense to people running a business, and wine is a business. Think of all the consumers who have no idea what TCA is, and there are many--they get a wine like that and they start talking to people about how to avoid that wine and maybe that producer. Just like anything else, the romance of wine meets the hard realities of the world. Bank mortgages can't be paid back in romance, unless of course the bank president and the business owner have something going on the side...;)

To your question: I remember somewhere reading that tests on screwcaps vs. cork have been done over a period of about ten years--either in New Z. or Australia. Perhaps one of our Down Unders can elaborate.

P.S. Yes, cork has been in use for hundreds of years, but wine has been around for 8,000 years. In the long view, cork is just another transition product.


I may have been unclear. I certainly do not underestimate how important it is to producers to make 4% more. I agree that it could be a crucial difference to their bottom lines. But my interest in the debate is much more focused on me... a retail consumer. I assume that in addition to the producer bottom line it is also quite important that the producers have customer acceptance in the marketplace. In other words, perhaps I flatter myself but it is also important that retail consumers like me approve of the change, especially if some producers continue to use corks. Strictly as a customer, if a producer is going to take something in the packaging of the product that I have learned to like away from me, I think it is beholding that producer to make a case about how it benefits me... not just them. I'm NOT denying that there is a benefit... simply that the case of why and how much of a benefit it is hasn't been made well enough to me. I may indeed be ignorant, but I don't read very much of technical wine articles or presentations. I'm just a consumer and one of the reasons I came to this place was to learn more. I also think this is important because I think some in the industry seemingly underestimate just how much many consumers think that use of anything other than a cork is a sign of lesser quality... i.e. the wine in a box syndrome.

Again, I'm not denying the benefits of screwcaps. What I am saying is to people like me who don't follow the technical wine press, the case for the benefits to the retail consumer has scarcely been made. And saying how beneficial it is to the producer doesn't do it for me.

Glenn
Last edited by Glenn Mackles on Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Thomas » Mon Oct 02, 2006 3:57 pm

Hoke,

You likely already know that I have a penchant for looking at wine from both sides (or is that looking at clouds?) but especially from the technical side. I can't help it--it's where I got my start in the business.

When I was operating my tasting room I used to shake my head in wonder over some of the illusions that consumers have about the product. I especially loved it when a consumer gave me a version of a shortcut to some particular matter that I knew was about as possible as seeding those clouds on the other side to produce rains of money.

It is the price the wine industry pays for having spent eons marketing romance--no wine before its time, and all that jazz. Of course, if Cesar Romero didn't make my teen friends and I think Thunderbird would make us handsome, I may never have come this far...
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Thomas » Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:09 pm

Glenn,

You can rest assured that producers know the level of resistance or acceptance on the consumer's part--that is why the screwcap debate still rages and the progress will be slow.

More than 90 percent of wines are consumed within a few hours of their purchase and they are consumed by people who generally aren't thinking as deeply about wine as so-called geeks think about it. This is likely the crop of wine consumers--the younger crop coming into the marketplace--that will assimilate the change from cork to screwcap. When that happens, many of us old-timers who demanded the cork remain in use will be screaming about the lack of low priced wines in the cork closure market. After that fact dawns on us, we will either die screaming or get with the program.

Of course, that is my prediction. But my crystal ball could be as useful as the ancient rag and layer of olive oil or resin that used to cap wine in amphorae...

I wonder if the rag popped a little when it was pulled--having tasted Retsina, I know what the resin did to wine!
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Hoke » Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:16 pm

Thomas: I saw your picture. Either you didn't drink enough T-Bird, or you drank too much. :)

The romance thing is a tough one. After all, most of us got involved in wine because of the romantic aspects it seemed to possess.

And once we were into it, and even now after all these years, it still fascinates us so.

But for me...and I'm sure for you as well, Thomas...wine almost immediately became much more than evanescent 'romance' and became quite substantial. And that's when wine became endlessly fascinating, because it partakes of the inchoate and the substantive. It can be quite precise, yet quite impossible to define or describe to anyone else.

It can be evocative of so much and so many things, and so differently to so many people, yet remain quite concrete in the glass.

Wine is romance, but so much more, because it is a beverage, a lifestyle, a place, a person, a region. It's history, and geography, and geology, and plant science, and agriculture, and art, and science, and people all wrapped up together.

I think one of Jane Austen's titles sums up wine perfectly for me: Sense and Sensibility.


I really don't mind people yattering on about wine as romance...except when it gets down to the real and very hard practicalities faced by those who grow the grapes and make the wine. A good winemaker needs some romance in his soul, sure, but he also needs that knowledge of chemistry and physics too. And the winery owner finds out damned quick that romance doesn't pay any bills. And it sure as hell doesn't show up in bankruptcy court hearings either.

On the other hand, I have to agree with Glen and his assertion that he should be primarily concerned with what directly influences HIM, and not worry about the producer overly much. I'd also agree that we (as an industry) haven't been very effective in getting out the cork/screwcap story. But that's no surprise, since the wine biz has NEVER been very effective about getting real stories out, becasue the marketing folks keep going on about stuff---like the romance thing----that they think sells bottles, and don't want to pay attention to anything else. They, like us, are victims of their training and education. :x
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Thomas » Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:35 pm

Hoke wrote:Thomas: I saw your picture. Either you didn't drink enough T-Bird, or you drank too much. :)

The romance thing is a tough one. After all, most of us got involved in wine because of the romantic aspects it seemed to possess.

And once we were into it, and even now after all these years, it still fascinates us so.

But for me...and I'm sure for you as well, Thomas...wine almost immediately became much more than evanescent 'romance' and became quite substantial. And that's when wine became endlessly fascinating, because it partakes of the inchoate and the substantive. It can be quite precise, yet quite impossible to define or describe to anyone else. It can be evocative of so much and so many things, and so differently to so many people, yet remain quite concrete in the glass.

Wine is romance, but so much more, because it is a beverage, a lifestyle, a place, a person, a region. It's history, and geography, and geology, and plant science, and agriculture, and art, and science, and people all wrapped up together.

I think one of Jane Austen's titles sums up wine perfectly for me: Sense and Sensibility.


I really don't mind people yattering on about wine as romance...except when it gets down to the real and very hard practicalities faced by those who grow the grapes and make the wine. A good winemaker needs some romance in his soul, sure, but he also needs that knowledge of chemistry and physics too. And the winery owner finds out damned quick that romance doesn't pay any bills. And it sure as hell doesn't show up in bankruptcy court hearings either.

On the other hand, I have to agree with Glen and his assertion that he should be primarily concerned with what directly influences HIM, and not worry about the producer overly much. I'd also agree that we (as an industry) haven't been very effective in getting out the cork/screwcap story. But that's no surprise, since the wine biz has NEVER been very effective about getting real stories out, becasue the marketing folks keep going on about stuff---like the romance thing----that they think sells bottles, and don't want to pay attention to anything else. They, like us, are victims of their training and education. :x


Hoke, I could not have said it better--well, maybe I could have but I didn't!

Sadly, I started my winery with a lot of romance and not enough money. The romance ended the day I was fingerprinted for the license application or was it when I made my first mercaptan wine? The winery ended eight years later, after what money I had left couldn't get me a decent bottle of wine.

Then I got smart and went into wine sales, where you know all the money is ;)

But I am stupid again; now I am convinced I can earn a living by writing about wine. Even though nothing has happened to explain my "convincement."

PS: I hope you don't have my picture on your night stand. That would qualify you to become a congressman.
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Glenn Mackles » Mon Oct 02, 2006 5:10 pm

See Guys, I'm just dumb enough to see this as an opportunity for the industry. If they actually spent the bucks to get the word out as to how much of a benefit it is to consumers to give up the cork, there could be a real live win-win here. Consumers could really learn that screwcaps keep their wine a lot more safely than cork, plus screwcaps gives them much more flexibility with storage and ease in opening.... AND that spoiled bottles could be a thing of the past Plus a cool ad campaign could make corks seem so old school. (Can't you see the TV ad now.. the cork disintegrating on removal, chasing it across the floor, the bad smelling ruined wine, trying to reinsert it... v. the screwcap). You could actually end up with a lot of consumer demand for screwcaps. Rght now I think there is a lot of consumer belief that screwcaps are just a plot by some in the industry to cheapen the product and make more money. It doesn't have to be that way. If there really is a large body of research proving the advantages... why exactly is this a secret?

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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Thomas » Mon Oct 02, 2006 5:19 pm

My sentiments exactly Glenn.

With the exception of advertising and promotion of a few low-end products, the wine industry has generally not been a beacon of creative thinking. Don't ask me why 'cause it has baffled me for 22 years.
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Hoke » Mon Oct 02, 2006 6:07 pm

As Thomas said, Glen, I couldn't agree more.

And as Thomas said, I've been baffled for many years by how this business I love (well, most of the time) communicates (or more to the point, doesn't) to its constituency..and its hoped for contstituency.

We do an awful job. Always have.

Part of the prob here, Glen, is that the biz itself isn't presenting a single, solid front. There are people, and entities in the biz that are just as conflicted as the consumers when it comes to cork/alternatives.

Mostly...not all the time, but mostly...its between the winemakers on one side and the marketers/bean counters on the other. If the marketers were confident that they wouldn't have to explain a drop in numbers (any time you make a change in a product you stand the chance of having a drop in numbers unless the transition is handled well), they'd go to alternatives quickly. But they are not confident, so they won't change until it's a slam dunk. What we refer to as 'critical mass'.

Most...not all, but most...winemakers would welcome screwcaps. But those that don't want to change, or haven't been convinced yet about screwcaps, are very loud and vocal about their resistance. As they should be, I think.

But I have to tell you, when you talk to as many winemakers as I do about this (part of that big picture that Tim Mc keeps telling me I don't see), you get the impression from the people who have the most invested in the wine, the winemakers, that they want to use screwcaps because it is now the best closure that we know of to seal wine bottles. Certainly better than the all too fallible cork. What winemakers want is to have the person opening the bottle experience as closely as possible what the winemaker wanted them to experience. They can't be sure of that with cork. They can, more certainly at least, with screwcaps.

I don't expect a wood plug to be romantic, Glen. I just want it to be the best way to seal my bottle of wine that I invest in. And if it isn't the best way, then we shouldn't be using it.
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Sue Courtney » Mon Oct 02, 2006 7:51 pm

Hoke wrote:Most...not all, but most...winemakers would welcome screwcaps. But those that don't want to change, or haven't been convinced yet about screwcaps, are very loud and vocal about their resistance. As they should be, I think.

At least they now have a choice.
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by TimMc » Mon Oct 02, 2006 8:57 pm

A choice , yes....a reality, no.

Once again, when all the high end wines go screw cap, then and only then will I be convinced this is the wave of the future.
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by TimMc » Mon Oct 02, 2006 8:59 pm

Sam Platt wrote:
TimMc wrote:Be honest guys, don't you think you are fousing on the wrong end of the telescope? Whip that thing around and see the bigger picture.


Dear Kettle,

You are black.

Regards,
Pot


Only if the "pot" is considering that the clear and vast majority of all wines are not under a screw cap. :wink:
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Thomas » Mon Oct 02, 2006 9:42 pm

TimMc wrote:A choice , yes....a reality, no.

Once again, when all the high end wines go screw cap, then and only then will I be convinced this is the wave of the future.


Tim, I repeat:

"More than 90 percent of wines are consumed within a few hours of their purchase and they are consumed by people who generally aren't thinking as deeply about wine as so-called geeks think about it. This is likely the crop of wine consumers--the younger crop coming into the marketplace--that will assimilate the change from cork to screwcap. When that happens, many of us old-timers who demanded the cork remain in use will be screaming about the lack of low priced wines in the cork closure market. After that fact dawns on us, we will either die screaming or get with the program."
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by TimMc » Mon Oct 02, 2006 11:00 pm

Or...we accept the reality that screw caps carry with them the negative vision of white port in a curled-back brown paper bag held by a derelict on skid row.

After that fact dawns on the rabid screw cap-heads, maybe then we see the problem with your prediction.


Happy trails. :wink:
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Re: Screwcaps give faultless performance

by Neil Courtney » Mon Oct 02, 2006 11:32 pm

TimMc wrote:Or...we accept the reality that screw caps carry with them the negative vision of white port in a curled-back brown paper bag held by a derelict on skid row.

After that fact dawns on the rabid screw cap-heads, maybe then we see the problem with your prediction.


Happy trails. :wink:


I think that you will find that rabid screw cap-heads have already totally rejected this association Tim. At least white port s a step above meths. Maybe we should educate the derelicts on skid row into drinking Two Buck Chuck instead. :lol:
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