Close Call

But there is more to closures than just technical performance. “We know about each of the closures and how good they are,” says Amorim’s de Jesus. “But which closures can add something on top of that basic function? The packaging becomes fundamental, and cork adds value in a quantifiable way – and this is important if you are running a winery, because you have to sell wine. This is what underscores cork’s market share.”

One area where cork has a strong advantage is in sustainability. While other closure types may be recyclable, they don’t have the same natural image that cork does. There is a disconnect in the minds of consumers when sustainability is linked with products that are plastic or aluminium.

This is where Nomacorc’s latest innovation is so clever. This is the Select Bio closures, which are the Select Series closures made using renewable, plant-based materials alongside conventional ones, resulting in a closure with a zero carbon footprint. This closure will cost a little more than the regular Select Series, and will be rolled out commercially in 2014.


Other innovations? Guala has two screwcaps in its line-up that are designed for use with sparkling wines. While it might take a while for customers to get used to fizz sealed with a screwcap, these are already in use in Australia.

“Now we have to find another country where these fit,” says Guala’s Seznec. “Eastern Europe is more likely than France because there are so many rules surrounding sparkling wine.”

These rules have been a problem for Zork, a company with an innovative sparkling wine closure that is resealable, unlike conventional sparkling wine corks.

The Zork is an interesting closure though, and has already appeared on wines listed by Tesco in the UK.

Finally, in 2014 we’ll see the first bottles sealed with Helix, a new cork closure/bottle combination from Amorim that does away with the need for a corkscrew. This was launched with a fanfare last June, and the Helix was the third most shared story on the BBC news site on the launch day. Twelve wineries are working on it at the moment, testing it in real winery conditions.

So, the demise of cork is taking longer than Robert Parker predicted. Will we still see bits of tree bark in the necks of wine bottles come 2025? Or will the closure market look similar to the one we see today?

Whatever happens, it looks like there’s some stability now in the closure market, and that any changes are going to be slow and gradual, rather than revolutionary.