A new survey of international wine drinkers has concluded that drinkers still prefer real cork stoppers in their bottles and suggests that the type of closure is still significant in their purchasing decision.

In a survey by The Moulton Hall research of wine drinkers in Australia, the UK and The US, commissioned by the Portuguese Cork Association (APCOR), 75% of respondents expressed a preference for natural cork, with just 9% for plastic stoppers. The preference was strongest in the US at 81%, with 73% and 72% respectively for the UK and Australia.

Meanwhile, a total of 69% believe that a real cork is a sign of a quality wine - rising as high as 83% in the US and 79% in Australia.  At the opposite end of the spectrum, six out of ten people surveyed said that plastic stoppers have connotations of cheapness and one in two believed they suggest a wine is of a lower quality.

The type of closure was ranked as the fourth most important factor in wine choice with 26% of respondents claiming it was a "very important factor".  While less important than previous experience of a wine (70%), style of wine (53%) and friends' recommendations (30%) it is more influential than the origin (22%), price (22%), special offers (21%) or label information (14%). 

The type of closure was even considered more important than the brand name (21%), look of the bottle (5%), advertising (2%) and recommendations of writers (10%).

Consequently, 57% of drinkers want to have information on the type of stoppers in their wine available when they are buying it.  And over half of those who prefer natural cork expressed "anger" or "disappointment" at the insistence of some supermarkets on plastic closures for their wine.

On the issue of wine quality, only 21% who have had a bottle of wine that was off believe it was because of problems with the cork. Indeed, the majority of respondents identified cork's ability to crumble as its "worst thing" (58%).  Only 9% thought it was that it might "allow spoil".

Francisco de Brito Evangelista, the director of APCOR's International
Campaign for Cork, said: "This research revealed some facts that we have know for some time - that, ultimately, consumers still prefer natural cork stoppers for their wine and that real cork is still viewed as a indication of a quality wine. 

"However, it has not been clear previously just how important the type of closure is when drinkers make their choice about what wine to buy.  We would like to see greater labelling introduced with information on the closure used from both wine producers and retailers. Because at the end of the day it is all about customer choice and consumer satisfaction."