By Walter Sanders
We’ve all heard the rumblings.
Corks are dying and alternative wine closures are the saviors of consistency, convenience, cost and quality.
Chances are you have encountered screw tops, synthetic corks, composite corks or glass stoppers in wine bottles at restaurants, wine shops and parties. What’s going on with alternative wine closures?
To learn more about the issues, I read the IACP Award-winning To Cork or Not to Cork: Tradition, Romance, Science, And the Battle for the Wine Bottle by George M. Taber (Scribner, 2007).
Well, my wine-loving amici, there is no comprehensive single answer to the red, white and blush question of what is going to win the battle for the wine bottle. The author documents the immense energy, time, money and research invested in the closure wars…and the battlegrounds are shifting. Here are his 2006 statistics:
- Some 20 billion wine bottle closures were used in 2006
- 13 billion were still natural corks
- 3 billion were technical or composite corks
- 2.5 billion were plastic corks
- 1.5 billion were screwcaps
- 20 million were glass stoppers
Those numbers indicate that cork still has an 80% market share but “that’s down from a virtual monopoly two decades ago,” says Taber. Cork growers, particularly the Portuguese, have the most to lose. Amorim, the largest producer, has invested in technology, cleaner harvesting and manufacturing processes, and testing to try and minimize TCA-produced “corking” (that awful wet-newspaper aroma and taste emitted by a corked wine) and oxidation issues.
Now the cork industry has the tough sell, after generations of blaming wineries and consumers for tainted wines, of admitting the TCA problem and offering an improved cork closure product. [Read more…]