FRANCE: Natural cork industry must consolidate, says report

By | 7 July 2006

Wine consultant Skalli & Rein has warned that producers of natural cork must consolidate if they are to regain ground lost to synthetic closures and screwcaps.

The Paris-based consultancy delivered the warning in its "Global Wine Closure Report 2006", an analysis looking at trends in the sector that was based on a survey answered by over 1,000 top players in the closures industry.

More wine, particularly from the New World, is being sold with synthetic closures or screwcaps as consumers steer clear of buying bottles using natural cork. As the range of alternatives increases, less traditional wine drinkers are wary of natural cork for fear of their wine being "corked" as a chemical - called TCA - in the cork reacts with the liquid in the bottle, the report said.

"Corks have begun to look old and flawed. Consumers have realised that natural corks have defects that can potentially ruin an expensive wine," the report said.

"The time is far behind where a "corked" wine was accepted as part of the traditional winemaking process. Wines need to become like all other consumer products and meet the customer's requirements for quality."

Skalli & Rein said smaller producers of natural cork would have to be bought to centralise decision-making within the industry. Portuguese giant Amorim already dominates the cork industry but the report said further consolidation was vital.

"If they do not react to the TCA crisis, screwcap will continue its impressive breakthrough until only Grand Crus will keep natural corks," the report said, noting that, from 2000 to 2006, screwcap had gone from nothing to holding 6.3% of the closures market.

Skalli & Rein added that screwcaps were "rapidly gaining acceptance among more traditional winemakers because of their reliability and ease of use, especially on nonaging white wines".

However, the consultants argued that other closures faced their own problems. They labelled alternative closures, including Tetra Brik Wine and ZORK, as "still too expensive" with "little known" about their oxygen transmission levels.

The report added that, while synthetic corks were growing at 20% a year, producers need to look at softening their closures for use with corkscrews.

Sectors: Wine

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