Few issues in winemaking have polarised the trade in the way closures have done in the last few years. Unfortunately, during this time, the debate has become so clouded by the high passions surrounding it, that as an industry we have often lost sight of what should have been a combined focus by all the trade to deliver the best all-round product to the consumer.

But in May this year APCOR, the Portuguese Cork Association, began a programme designed to return to the very roots of the closure debate affecting all levels of the industry, from supplier to producer and retailer to consumer.

Its first move was at the very start of that chain, when it announced a €2.5m research programme, which will fund crucial, independent research with the groundbreaking objective of eradicating TCA in natural cork wine closures.

Commencing in 2003 the research will cover five areas of critical interest to the wine trade, including investigating the lifecycle of natural cork stoppers, the stabilisation period of raw natural cork and natural cork's contribution to the maturation of wine. On top of this APCOR will also be conducting tests on new treatments and developments within the cork industry and new processes with the sole aim of eradicating TCA.

Francisco de Brito Evangelista, the director for APCOR's International Campaign for Cork, explained:  "This initiative is a breakthrough for our industry.  It demonstrates clearly, and for the first time, that we are dedicating the appropriate resources to finding a solution to TCA in natural cork stoppers - industry-wide."

Meanwhile during June and July this year, APCOR targeted those that represent the final link in the chain, the consumer. APCOR asked the consumers themselves to join the Cork debate, which up until now has seemed the sole domain of the trade. Over 4000 wine lovers completed APCOR's online survey to answer questions about cork and wine and give APCOR their opinions.
There was a wide range of opinions and a huge number of comments from professionals and wine lovers alike. For APCOR the key question was, if a wine label currently tells you the grape, the origin and the age of the wine inside, should it also tell you what type of closure is used in the bottle?

A hefty 59% of those who answered - including 58% of all the winemakers - want more information about closures to be available to people when they are choosing their wine, for example on the label or supermarket shelf.
But perhaps even more interesting was that 61% would prefer their favourite wine to be closed with cork and nearly all said that they would not be happy if it was changed.

Finally, and partly in response to the survey results, APCOR turned its attention to the retailers, who as the point of contact for the consumer play such an important role in the debate.

APCOR called upon UK retailers to improve labelling for consumers at point-of-sale. Currently, retailers are under no obligation to label what kind of stopper has been used in the bottle. Francisco de Brito Evangelista said: "Our research shows that consumers want to have the choice over what closure they are buying. We ask retailers to get behind labelling closures at point of sale and allow their customers to have that choice."

APCOR would like to thank all the people who gave their opinions on the Real Cork debate and you can read more views in the Real Cork debate and explore the Corkmasters website at: corkmasters.com