September 2017 Issue of Wines & Vines

New Wine Stoppers

More sustainable cork options and more products billed as TCA-free

by Andrew Adams

The closures market is becoming even more competitive as suppliers release more products they claim offer consistent performance, are more sustainable and guaranteed free of any contaminant compounds. The following cork products and a new type of synthetic closure either launched or debuted in the North American market recently. Another major area of closure innovation, automated systems to ensure cork quality, will be the subject of an upcoming Product Focus feature by Wines & Vines.

Two of the newest innovations in the cork segment are micro-agglomerated corks produced with granules that have been treated with a steam-based process to remove TCA and other potential contaminants.

Cork Supply calls its treatment Vapex and reports an enhanced Vapex process is at the heart of a new facility in Portugal to produce a line of micro-agglomerated corks from the materials left over from its natural cork production. The company launched the new Vinc closures at this year’s Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. The Vinc and Vinc+ have slightly different oxygen-transfer rates, and Cork Supply guarantees each closure to be free of contamination. “We opened CSP4 last year to be able to offer taint-free, best-in-class micro-agglomerated corks produced from 100% of our own high-quality raw cork materials,” Cork Supply founder Jochen Michalski said. “As Cork Supply integrates rigorous quality controls during harvesting and production of our natural corks, all remaining cork materials from that production are of very high quality.”

In 2015 the founder of Nomacorc partnered with Bespoke Capital Partners to form a new company, Vinventions, to complete a successful buyout of the closures company. The new venture then acquired the German cork company Ohlinger in 2015. Through the Ohlinger brand, Vinventions launched a micro-agglomerated cork it’s calling Sübr. Vinventions worked with Cork Supply to develop the product that also is produced with steam-treated granules but is held together by a non-glue binder. The supplier also guarantees each cork to be TCA-free and a natural, biodegradable option because it’s not made with glue.

Malcom Thompson, Vinventions’ chief innovation officer and president of the Americas, said since the company launched its focus has been to become the global wine industry’s most “trusted and complete” closure supplier.

After acquiring the Ohlinger company, Thompson said the firm did a complete review of the natural cork portfolio line and decided it did not want to continue using glue for the agglomerated products. “We’ve always had this position on glue that we thought that was a bad thing,” he said. “We’re always concerned about the migration of glue byproducts.”

Thompson said the movement of glue could compromise the closure’s performance, and if glue compounds get in to contact with the wine, it could cause an undesirable sensory effect. Starting July 1, he said the company stopped accepting new business for glue-bonded products and hopes to have those fully transitioned out of the Vinnventions portfolio by mid-2018. “Essentially we’re moving out of glue; that’s a decision we’re making.”

The Sübr is bound with a plant-based compound that Thompson said is sustainable and biodegradable and has no aromatic compounds. Vinventions sources the cork from Cork Supply and then forms the closures itself using some of the extrusion technology developed by Nomacorc and its own binder. Thompson said the company plans to have the Sübr fully rolled out by the end of this year and then offer a range of OTRs and a sparkling wine closure by 2018.

For several years, Diam had been the only cork producer with a production process that made it confident enough to put a TCA-free guarantee behind each closure it produced. The company treats the granules for its corks with what it calls the Diamant process that uses super-critical carbon dioxide rather than steam, and this is a major reason why Diam guarantees its closures to have less than 0.3 ng/L of any potential contamination. “The use of CO2 at low temperature conditions better preserves the cork’s internal structure and also avoids the production of aromatic toasted compounds,” said Diam sales manager Francois Margot. “Much more than TCA, the Diam technology removes more than 150 different compounds from cork.”

Keeping pace with the new natural agglomerated options hitting the market, Diam unveiled its Origine closure at Unified this year. The cork is bound with 100% plant-based polyols and sealed with a beeswax emulsion. “This cork brings the same sensorial neutrality, consistency and oxygen control as the classic Diam range, but it is made with more natural components,” Margot said.

While it debuted less recently, the Helix closure by cork producer Amorim and bottle supplier O-I is just now getting used by U.S. wineries. The Helix is essentially a screwcap made out of cork and was designed to offer the best of both. 

Carlos de Jesus, director of communications for cork producer Amorim, said since the Helix was unveiled at Vinexpo in 2013, it’s been adopted by 26 wine brands from wineries in the United States, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Austria and South Africa.

In the United States, Bronco Wine Co. and Constellation Brands have launched wines using the Helix system, but de Jesus said in Europe both large and smaller wine companies have begun using it. The product was developed to fit wines around the $10 price point and provide a closure that was easy to open (no corkscrew required) and also could be used to reseal the bottle.

One of Constellation’s wines that is using the Helix is Callie Collection, a national brand comprised of a red blend, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay sourced from California’s Central Coast.

“We wanted to ensure the brand offers consumers not only delicious wine, but also breakthrough and elegant packaging, said Constellation Brands vice president John Seethoff. “The Helix closure is perfect, combining the elegance and tradition of a cork with the ease and functionality of a screwcap.”

Seethoff said the closure fits well with the Callie Collection’s branding of “elegant yet accessible” easy-to-drink wine that is perfect for many kinds of events and social settings. “The response to the packaging has been great: Consumers think it is unique and innovative.”

The cork element of the Helix costs 15 cents on average in the U.S. market, and de Jesus said while that includes an “innovation premium,” it’s also priced where it needs to be in relation to the type of wines it will be used for. “We have to remain competitive if we want to be an actor in that territory,” he said.

While a totally new kind of closure, de Jesus said the cork still provides the traditional “pop” that consumers expect from corks and can be used on nearly any kind of bottling lines by adding an orientator to ensure the cork is properly placed for bottling, similar to what’s needed for sparkling wine corks.

The cork component of the Helix is produced with the same Rosa system Amorim uses for the ground cork granules that comprise corks sold under the Neutrocork brand. The Rosa process employs controlled steam distillation to remove TCA and other contaminants from the cork. The Helix closures undergo further molding and shaping to ensure they fit with the matching bottles by O-I. 


Cork Supply
The Vinc by Portuguese supplier Cork Supply Group is produced with an enhanced proprietary “Vapex” steam process to remove any potential TCA. The company guarantees each Vinc to be free of the contaminant (less than 0.5 ng/L) and offers two still wine corks with different oxygen-transfer rates based on the size of the granules used to produce the closures. Cork Supply is also offering Vinc for sparkling wines.

The ArdeaSeal wine closure, which is produced by the Italian firm Coro Développement, is now available in the United States through Bouchard Cooperages. The closure is comprised of a rigid core that is covered by a body of soft thermoplastic elastomers and a plastic “shield” at the end of the closure that is in contact with wine. The core maintains the closure’s shape and seal, while the shield prevents any chance of contamination and the body facilities the closure’s removal with a corkscrew.


Sübr is another micro-agglomerated cork that was developed through a collaboration between Vinventions and Cork Supply. Vinventions is also the parent company of Nomacorc. The company reports the new closure is produced without glue and is fully recyclable and biodegradable. Vinventions also claims all Sübr corks are free of TCA (less than 0.5 ng/L) and provide a constant and consistent oxygen-transfer rate. Vinventions built a new factory for the corks with an initial capacity of 200 million closures in 2017.


Amorim, O-I
Unveiled in 2013 at Vinexpo in Bordeaux, the Helix cork, which was developed by Amorim and glass supplier O-I, debuted in the United States in 2016 as the closure for a national brand by Bronco Wine Co. Since then, Constellation Brands launched another national brand sealed with the Helix. The cork stopper resembles a bar top or “T” top but is made entirely from cork and features grooves on the sides that fit specially designed bottles. Amorim and O-I tout the closure as featuring the best of both screwcaps and corks by providing a natural stopper with the ease and resealing capabilities of screwcap.


Diam Bouchage
Part of the French firm Oeneo, Diam Bouchage expanded its line of guaranteed TCA-free (less than 0.3 ng/L) agglomerated corks with the Diam Origine. The new closure uses a binding agent derived from plant material and beeswax as a sealing agent to ensure a complete seal without any capillary movement of the wine through the cork. Diam currently offers the Origine for its 10 and 30 corks but plans to offer it as an option for its entire product line. Diam is distributed in North America by G3 Enterprises.,



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