WHEN CorkGuard Closures Ltd introduced SmartCork to the market it knew the Australian wine industry would be tough to crack because of its preference for screwcap. But as it turns out David Taylor, who developed the new cork, is pushing all the right buttons to tap into the antipodean wine world. Stephanie Timotheou reports.
Research might suggest Australian wine consumers aren’t too keen on cork but a new closure offering winemakers the benefits of natural cork with none of the downsides might just change their minds.
UK-based CorkGuard Closures Ltd has introduced SmartCork to the market, designed to deliver better results than normal cork with the use of membrane technology.
Created by David Taylor and endorsed by leading Master of Wine Justin Howard-Sneyd, SmartCork has been developed to address key issues that have dogged the cork industry for decades.
Howard-Sneyd said cork taint and dust can be eliminated with the use of SmartCork while allowing and regulating optimum oxygen transmission.
“We believe this is a genuine game-changer that will introduce a ‘third-way’ into the closure market, allowing winemakers to use natural cork with confidence and at prices that will give technical corks, plastic corks and screwcaps a run for their money,” he said.
THE BIRTH OF SMARTCORK
The creation of SmartCork came about in the ’90s when Taylor was watching a television program about the success of the Australian wine industry.
A commentator on the program said the only problem the industry faced was the cork used to seal the bottle, which sparked the idea of creating a taint-free closure.
Taylor began developing and testing a number of technologies and determined there was no mileage in developing a synthetic closure due to elasticity issues and scalping of polymers used in its manufacture.
He explored combining the elastic and sealing capabilities of natural cork with a high performance oxygen barrier membrane.
In 2002 Taylor set up CorkGuard Ltd (formerly Bacchus Wine Closures Ltd) which patented the technology, raised investment and developed machinery required to coat corks automatically and in volume.
The 2007 to 2009 closure trials at the Australian Wine and Research Institute (AWRI) confirmed SmartCork provided the best protection out of all the leading closures.
Taylor said the technology is now being licensed to a growing number of cork producers and distributors across the globe and is slowly making its way into the Australian market.
POTENTIAL DOWN UNDER
While several studies suggest Australian consumers were more likely to buy a bottle of wine if it was under screwcap (see Grapegrower & Winemaker issue 607, p.105), Taylor said the company has received enquiries from Australian wineries, particularly those which export to the US and China.
“The quality issues with natural cork in the early 2000s meant Australian winemakers had no choice but to seek alternatives to cork for their wines,” he said.
“SmartCork, with its low failure rate and its ability to consistently deliver fresh, intense and fruity wines, now gives them the opportunity to return to natural cork with confidence.
“In time we hope to see membrane-coated corks accepted as the closure of choice in Australia.”
Full article in the September 2014 issue of Grapegrower & Winemaker. To grab your copy visit https://www.winebiz.com.au/gwm/subscribe/.