Winebits 177: Cork and closure edition

Higlighting news in the world of corks and screwcaps:

? Portuguese producer goes screwcap: Decanter reports that Portuguese producer Sogrape is putting one of its biggest wines, a $15 vinho verde, under screwcap. Given that Portugal in the world’s largest cork producer, that’s the equivalent of the Wine Curmudgeon moving to Napa and giving up the blog to do PR for a winery that makes high-alcohol, over-priced wine. Said one importer: “For the biggest wine company in Portugal to do this is quite rare. It ?s a slightly maverick, and quite a brave, move. It might not be well-received by the rest of the industry.”

? But cork isn’t dead, right? Not according to our friends at the Cork Quality Council, who remind us that wine with screwcaps and plastic closures are dying on the shelf. It quotes Nielsen data that notes sales of the top 100 domestic premium wine brands with corks increased 13.8 percent in the 12 weeks ended Feb. 5 over the same period a year ago. Meanwhile, those evil screwcap and plastic stopper wines “tumbled” 13.1 percent during the same period. But before you go open a bottle of bubbly to toast cork’s comeback, know that those figures exclude imports, which means no New Zealand wines — almost all of which have have screwcaps — were included. And, as Decanter pointed out in the previous story, cork accounted for two-thirds of the wine closures sold in 2009, compared to its 95 percent share at the beginning of the century. So one quarter’s worth of data probably isn’t too significant.

? Even plastic corks want to be recycled: Or, as that part of the industry prefers to be called, synthetic closures. Nomacorc, which dominates the synthetic side of the business, is sponsoring a recycling project with Total Wine & More, which has 73 stores in 11 states. Wine drinkers can drop off their Nomacorc closures, as well as other synthetic and real corks, and they’ll be converted into what the company calls “eco-friendly cork boards.”

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