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A Competitive Closure Market Benefits Wineries and Consumers.

LAST YEAR I had the opportunity to visit the Portuguese cork forests and watch the bark harvest first hand. The process of stripping the bark from the trees is a skill honed over years, and I was impressed by the dexterity and efficiency exhibited by the workers as they used axes to cut into the bark and then pull large sections of it free from the trees.

Watching the harvest, one gets the feeling of witnessing a scene that has played out for centuries and which has been relatively unchanged throughout the entire history of cork being used as a wine closure.

Our industry is regularly criticized for being too bound to tradition, but the wine business is an old one and it has changed significantly.

For cork producers, those changes have come quickly in recent decades as concerns regarding cork contamination and competition from alternative closures spurred them to review how they produce corks and where to improve the process. Adding to that pressure is the growth of the U.S. wine market into the world's largest, and U.S. consumers--at all price points--have never reacted to a corked wine with equanimity.

More recently the world's top cork producers focused on developing machines to screen each and every cork for TCA and any other possible contaminants. Wines & Vines has been reporting on the incremental progress of individual cork inspection since the previous decade and I wrote a feature about automated, individual cork inspection for our August closures issue in 2013.

Now, five years later, Amorim and Cork Supply (who hosted me for that trip to Portugal) have rolled out production-ready, contamination-detecting machines that are supplying corks to the industry. The corks checked by such machines represent just a fraction of what the industry currently demands, especially when one considers the global market for wine closures, but it's a significant advancement. Coupled with the very popular dry soak analysis method used by many suppliers, premium, natural corks are becoming just as "safe" an option for one's wines as screwcaps and treated, agglomerated cork

I know how heated the closures debate can get, and there are still many passionate opinions on this subject. For example, I've heard of a few New Zealand wineries just now coming back to cork after that country seemed to make screwcaps part of its national identity. Check out our "Question for August" on page 8 to read why three experienced winemakers are big proponents of screwcaps.

Personally, I think whatever protects your wines, is easy for the consumer to open and fits your budget is the best option. Thankfully our industry continues to provide products that meet all those criteria; even those products that have been harvested by hand for hundreds of years and likely will continue to be for many decades more.

If you've picked up this magazine at our fifth annual Packaging Conference thanks for attending. We're particularly proud of this year's lineup, and I hope you find the show to be as useful as we intend it to be. If you're reading this at the office, home or online and there's still time to join us Aug. 9, please do, we'd love to see you.

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Title Annotation:EDITOR'S LETTER
Comment:A Competitive Closure Market Benefits Wineries and Consumers.(EDITOR'S LETTER)
Author:Adams, Andrew
Publication:Wines & Vines
Date:Aug 1, 2018
Previous Article:QUESTION FOR AUGUST: Why are you sticking with screwcap closures?
Next Article:Key Indicators.

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