Wines & Vines Home
   
 
Welcome Guest
LOGIN |  CREATE ACCOUNT
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 
 
12.07.2012  
 

Experts Joust Over Wine Closures

Merits and sustainability of corks, synthetics and screw tops debated at Davis forum

 
by Andrew Adams
 
 
wine closures panel
 
Maurizio Ugliano, research manager for synthetic cork maker Nomacorc, describes sustainable steps taken by the company at a panel discussion about wine closures. Dr. Andrew Waterhouse, seated far left, moderated the panel, which also included VinPerfect founder and CEO Tim Keller (center) and Peter Weber the executive director of the Cork Quality Council.

Davis, Calif.—While consumers find plenty of room for argument about which wine is No. 1, winemakers and suppliers can be just as combative about which closure is best.

As part of its ongoing Wine Flavor 101 series of lectures and seminars, the University of California, Davis, gathered representatives from the cork, synthetic and screwtop camps for a forum held Thursday on campus.

Late in the afternoon during a panel discussion about the sustainability of closures, Tim Keller, founder and CEO of VinPerfect, the new company that has patented an oxygen-permeable liner for aluminum screwtops, made an aggressive pitch for the sustainability of aluminum closures vs. the cork industry’s sustainable claims.

Keller said much of the cork industry’s claims to sustainability are built around an image of a beautiful cork tree in Portugal and are what U.S. Vice President Joe Biden would refer to as “malarkey.” He added, “we would be remiss if we didn’t confront it directly.”

Prior to the discussion, UC Davis’ Dr. Andrew Waterhouse—who moderated the panel—requested panelists not focus on claims made in privately funded closure research.

 

    WINE FLAVOR 101: BRETTANOMYCES
     

     
    The Wine Flavor 101 series of lectures continues Jan. 11 with a discussion of Brettanomyces. University of California, Davis, experts and winemakers will explore the potentially beneficial aspects of Brett. A winemakers’ panel also will discuss and taste through wines exhibiting Brett as part of their terroir. Dr. Linda Bisson will unveil her new Brettanomyces Aroma Impact Wheel. The session is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and costs $200 with lunch and wine tastings included.  For more information visit: wineserver.ucdavis.edu.

Sustainability claims questioned
Keller, however, went right at Corticeira Amorim’s “life cycle” analysis report (released in 2008), which concluded that cork had a far lower output of carbon dioxide than competing closures. He said the report is largely based on the premise that cork forests provide a natural offset to the emission of greenhouse gases through cork production and shipment. Yet Keller argued the cork forest would keep growing and absorbing CO2 even if the wine industry stopped using cork, so it’s inaccurate to use the natural forest as an offset to production. “The cork forest is a non sequitur,” he said.

He went on to say that aluminum is almost exclusively manufactured using hydroelectric power and is an excellent material for recycling. “You don’t see people wandering around the streets with bags of corks,” he said. “Aluminum will be recycled because it’s profitable to do so.”

Keller also argued that natural cork’s rate of failure also outweighs any sustainable claims when one considers a consumer pouring out a tainted bottle of wine represents a complete waste of production and transportation resources.

Following Keller’s remarks Waterhouse said he felt compelled to make a response because he had specifically asked the panel not to refer to the life cycle report in question. He criticized Keller for attempting to undermine the sustainable value of the cork forest with “scanty data” while he had not even completed and released a life cycle analysis of VinPerfect’s production chain.

Keller conceded he lacked his own life-cycle analysis but made his second political reference by saying President Obama appeared to lose the first presidential debate because he didn’t aggressively confront the claims of his opponent. He said he’s not “anti-cork,” he just wanted to refute some of the claims made by the industry.

Peter Weber, executive director of the Cork Quality Council, wryly noted after Keller’s remarks that he was glad someone was able to use the images and content of the report he had been asked not to present. He went on to say that cork is naturally sustainable and has been endorsed by the International Organization of Vine and Wine, the World Wildlife Fund and other groups.

Weber said some of the trees being harvested for cork are 250 years old, and the United Nations has concluded the forests are environmentally and economically sustainable. He said the trees provide a definite offset to carbon dioxide production. “It’s small, but it can be an offset and that’s important.”

On the synthetic side, Maurizio Ugliano, head of research for Nomacorc, said the company has reduced its per-closure CO2 rate of 16 grams in 2007 to 11 grams per closure this year. He said that’s far less than the lowest per-bottle production output number for bottles he’s seen of 1.28 kg of C02.

Before leaving the panel early to catch a flight to Italy, Ugliano also noted that if just 3.5% of corks are tainted and only 35% of consumers detect the taint and pour the wine down the drain, that waste has a far larger impact than any CO2 generated through production.

Following the panelists’ remarks, Waterhouse sought out the input of Glenn O’Dell, the director of quality improvement for Constellation Brands Inc., which had earlier in the day discussed conducting closure trials.

O’Dell said the carbon footprint of the closure industry is relatively minor and there really is not enough research to conclusively state which closure is the better option in terms of being the most sustainable. “I don’t think anyone has enough information at this point to say who can wear the greenest hat,” he said.

Which is the best?
If there is uncertainty about who is the greenest there’s still plenty of room for debate about which closure is the best. After presentations by Weber, Keller and Ugliano about the merits of each of their respective closure types, one was left with the answer to so many of winemaking’s questions: it depends.

Weber attested to the cork industry cleaning up its taint and quality control issues and reported the latest consumer survey found more than 90% of those polled thought wines with corks to have “high to very high” quality. Keller detailed the steps VinPerfect has taken to dial in its liner to deliver a precise level of oxygen that avoids reductive or oxidized characteristics. Ugliano described how Nomacorc provides a line of closures with different oxygen transfer rates so winemakers can specifically target desirable traits in their wine. He noted as an example that his research found the closure with a higher oxygen rate could provide more chocolate notes over 18 months of aging. “We could modulate these chocolate aromas to our convenience,” he said.

O’Dell said he has been studying the different types of closures for 25 years and has yet to find a definitive answer for which is the best. “Most people want a simple answer. I’m still looking for one,” he said.

He said wineries have to run closure trials through their bottling lines as it’s impossible to really determine how a closure will work with your production process unless you’re working with “live bullets.”

He said the latest luminescent equipment to pinpoint total oxygen levels have been invaluable in improving the effectiveness of his closure trials. When asked about running different closure types through a line without stopping it for consistency, O’Dell said he’s thrown different closures into the hopper and just run bottles with light sensors through the line and has been able to achieve enough representation for each type for the trial.

Screwtops require the line to be shut down, so O’Dell said he’d probably switch to using a mobile line for screwtops so the same wine could be bottled with different closures concurrently.

Each closure has its own strengths and weaknesses, so the question is more what closure fits your wine than which is the best. O’Dell did say the oldest option is still one of the most effective. “If the cork industry could deliver anything close to 100% good corks efficiently we would not be having this discussion today.”

 

SHARE »
Close
LATEST READER COMMENTS
 
 
Posted on 05.07.2013 - 15:50:36 PST
 
Diam closures offer all the advantages of natural cork w/none of the TCA and permeability problems of traditional natural corks. I've used them now for 10 years, with no corked bottle returns, and great consistency in aging. Admittedly on a small, 1000 cs/yr, scale.
 
David Noyes
 
 
 
CURRENT NEWS INDEX »


 
Wines & Vines Home
 
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
info@winesandvines.com
Wine Industry Metrics
 
Off-Premise Sales » Month   12 Months  
October 2014 $570 million
6%
$7,775 million
6%
October 2013 $539 million $7,342 million
     
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
October 2014 $284 million
18%
$1,751 million
13%
October 2013 $240 million $1,556 million
     
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
October 2014 139
6%
226
18%
October 2013 131 192
     
 
MORE » Released on 11.13.2014
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 

Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
 
Search the PWV archive »
 
 

Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
2014
 
Download full report »
 
 

CALENDAR
  • December 2-4
     
    Vinitech Sifel in Bordeaux
     
  • December 3
     
    Sustainable/Organic Wine Production Seminar
     
  • December 4
     
    North Coast Wine Industry Expo
     
  • December 6-7
     
    Wine Chemistry Workshop in Oregon
     
  • MORE »
 

READER COMMENTS
 
Article: Kluge Saga Continues in Virginia »
 
Not everybody likes Pat Kluge, but she and Moses built a first class winery /...
Reader: Josh Moser
 
Article: Canada Adapts to Kegged Wines »
 
I am a wine agent in Manitoba & there certainly are kegs of cider here....
Reader: Guest
 
Article: What's Your Winery's IP Worth? »
 
If you would like more information on this seminar please visit The Seminar Group's website....
Reader: Danielle Bingham
 
Article: DtC Is Lifeblood of Wineries, Banker Says »
 
Seems like another locical option would be to have more small niche distrbutors. Consolidation of...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Tasting Wine From PD-Resistant Grapes »
 
Congratulations Andy! Lots of grapebreeders and southern growers will be looking through the catalogs. i...
Reader: Guest
 
 


Directory/Buyer's Guide — Your Wine Industry Marketplace
 
 
WINERY SEARCH
 
 
Advanced Search »
SUPPLIER SEARCH
   by Product
 by Company Name or Brand
 
Browse by Category »
2015 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
 
 
EXPANDED ONLINE SEARCH INCLUDED WITH PURCHASE
 
ORDER NOW »
 
LEARN MORE »
 
 
Wines & Vines Magazine
 
 
LEARN MORE »
 
SUBSCRIBE »
 
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
 
LEARN MORE »
 
ORDER NOW »
 
 
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
 
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
 
FREE LIVE DEMO »
 
VIEW VIDEO »
 
 
 
 
Latest Job Listings
 Cellar Club Coordinato...
 Dundee, OR
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Customer Service & Rel...
 Healdsburg, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Brand Manager
 Woodland Hills, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Senior Vineyard Manage...
 Rutherford, CA
Vineyards
 Brand Director, Austra...
 Napa, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Sales Representative O...
 Sacramento, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Production Forklift Op...
 Yountville, CA
Winemaking and Production
 Project Manager
 Santa Maria, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Wine Salesperon
 Bay Head, NJ
Sales and Marketing
 Communications Special...
 St. Helena, CA
Sales and Marketing
 
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:
 
 





Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
 
 
Copyright © 2001-2014 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.