FROM A NEAR monopoly for cork closures just 20 years ago, the now much broader closures category continues to innovate at what appears to be an increasingly rapid rate.
News of technical innovation, product innovation and aesthetic innovation keeps attention focused on what’s happening with closures and the increasingly complex choices brand owners need to make. What closure will keep the wine good enough for its designated shelf life as well as add an appealing marketing buzz?
By necessity, technical innovation still dominates the cork industry. It has spent the past 20 years investing in ways to remove TCA from stoppers – with considerable success, it should be said.
The latest iteration of technical improvement is the ability to screen every single-piece natural cork stopper and remove all with more than 0.5ng/L releasable TCA before they leave the factory – this is below the human threshold of detection. This option is only available to the top-notch, highest grades of natural cork and with a notable on-cost.
MA Silva global sales director José Remoaldo says of its guaranteed TCA-free stoppers: “We are currently selling to the US, France, Spain, Germany, Austria, Italy and Australia.”
Amorim communications director Carlos de Jesus says: “We have delivered NDTech corks to wineries in six countries.”
Cork Supply’s global marketing director Jonathan Jewell says: “DS100+ was designed specifically for the detection of TCA.” It delivers, he added “high-quality single-piece natural corks at a value that will benefit an even wider range of winery customers. In 2017, we expect to triple capacity to 60 million corks”.
For less posh corks, typically batches are guaranteed to have an average releasable TCA level below a certain level, often 1.5ng/L – except Diam, which is made from super-critical carbon dioxide-cleaned cork flour, so every stopper is guaranteed to have a releasable TCA below 0.3ng/L.
Given that its technical corks are already TCA-free, Diam has more recently been working on oxygen transmission rate (OTR). The company’s “latest innovation has been Diam 30”, which offers a shelf life of up to 30 years, says its managing director, Dominique Tournieux, adding: “Diam 30 is growing by 40%-50% per year. [This and] Diam 10, growing by 20%-30%, are replacing natural premium corks. The way premium wineries view Diam has totally changed in the past five years.”
Amorim has also seen big interest in its Helix cork, which twists off like a screwcap. De Jesus says: “In 2016, two US wine industry heavyweights are launching brands under Helix.” This and the company’s technical Neutrocork stopper form a core part of Amorim’s growth strategy. De Jesus says: “Our 2015 results were the fifth year of consecutive growth of sales. You will see more growth carried by innovations such as Helix, and also carried by a renewed interest in wine packaging. In countries such as the US and China, natural wine packaging has such an important role, you’ll see additional growth in cork.” He adds: “When you bring natural and technology together, you have a very strong proposition.”