Amorim Cork America, a division of international Amorim Group, the world's leading producer of natural cork closures, has released results from a survey conducted among US winemakers and vintners which reveals a marked preference for cork closures.
These survey results indicate that while some experimentation with alternative wine closures is occurring among winemakers, the majority still prefer natural cork.
According to the survey results, almost three-quarters of winemakers (72 per cent) prefer natural cork as a wine bottle closure - more than five times higher than synthetics (14 per cent) or screwcaps (11 per cent). Winemakers' partiality for natural cork is further evidenced by their usage of it. Those who use natural whole cork close the majority of their wine with it (79 per cent of winemakers close 70-100 per cent of their bottles with it).
"It's gratifying to see that the industry recognises that natural cork is superior to alternative closures," said Amorim Cork America's general manager, Daryl Eklund. "At Amorim, we enforce the most stringent quality assurance procedures to ensure that our corks perform at the standards expected to protect the investments of our winemaker customers. And we're not resting on our laurels. We are committed to developing even more sophisticated technology so that cork continues to be the closure of choice."
When choosing wine closures, 75 per cent of winemakers indicated that "quality and technical performance" is the most important attribute of any closure option. Tradition, and wine-development characteristics rank among the top reasons for choosing cork as well. Findings also indicate that consumer acceptance is a key factor, as winemakers continue to acknowledge American wine buyers' and drinkers' aversion to screwcaps or synthetics.
Not surprisingly, the survey found that TCA was a primary reason why some winemakers chose other types of closures. TCA (2, 4, 6-trichloroanisole) is a naturally occurring odorous, but harmless, compound that certain microorganisms produce in the presence of chlorine. Nearly 70 per cent of the respondents were very optimistic that cork suppliers will successfully reduce TCA levels.
The survey found that wine taint is not as prevalent as sometimes thought. Generally, participants reported less taint in their own wines (0 to 1 per cent) than the perceived national average (3 to 5 per cent).
"A common misconception about TCA is that it is a direct result of tainted cork," said Professor Miguel Cabral, director of Research and Development for Amorim. "In actuality, contamination can be attributed to oak barrels, storage tanks, faulty processing equipment, and clarifying agents, among others. Wine may be spoiled in other ways as well; the incorrect use of preservatives, poorly managed fermentations, erroneous acidifications, mouldy fruit or exposure to oxygen or microorganisms."
Amorim has recognised TCA as a challenge in their industry and currently devotes more than $6 million (€6.1m) to research annually, with the bulk of that budget focused on understanding and reducing TCA taint.
In 1999, Amorim established a dedicated R&D department to bring a disciplined scientific focus to cork closures. The company's team of scientists combines first-class scientific research credentials in chemistry, microbiology, oenology and sensory analysis with strong winemaking credentials. Additionally, Amorim sponsors wine closure research at a number of respected universities and laboratories around the world.
Between 20 May and 6 June 2002, a third-party researcher, the Analytic Group, conducted a random telephone survey of 200 US winemakers, or approximately 10 per cent of US wineries. Amorim commissioned the survey to gauge winemakers' awareness of cork and alternative closures, and to determine their perceptions of the industry. The survey margin of error is plus or minus 6.9 percentage points at a 95 per cent confidence level.
Amorim Cork America, formerly known as Cork Associates, is headquartered in Napa, California and provides natural cork sales and customised services to wineries throughout the United States. Amorim Cork America is a division of the international Amorim Group, the world's leading producer of natural cork closures for the wine industry. Based in Portugal, the group is recognised as the leading player in the world cork industry. For further information visit the company website.