Former Direct Wines director joins re-branded closure company

Former Direct Wines director Justin Howard-Sneyd MW has taken on a part-time role at CorkGuard, the new name for Bacchus Wine Closures, to promote its hi-tech stoppers to “decision makers”.

Justin Howard-Sneyd MW

Justin Howard-Sneyd MW was previously global wine director at Direct Wines until January 2013 when he left to form his own consultancy

Howard-Sneyd, who has been appointed a director at CorkGuard, told db yesterday that he was tasked with “spreading the word” about the company’s technology, which sees a specially developed plastic film applied to natural corks to prevent the spread of cork taints into wine, as well as regulate the flow of oxygen.

He explained that he would be speaking to press, winemakers and major wine buyers to “convince them to give it a try”, speaking of the CorkGuard closure, which was previously called Bacchus Barrier.

The role will see Howard-Sneyd devote around two days a month to CorkGuard, allowing him to also consult for other companies, above all his former employer, the mail-order business Direct Wines, as well as continue to run his winery in Roussillon, called Domaine of the Bee.

Bacchus Wine Closures was re-launched as CorkGuard last year following what are believed to be troubles with its partner in Portugal, cork producer Álvaro Coelho and Irmãos SA.

However, in January last year Bacchus was restructured and re-financed with André Oszmann joining as chairman, bringing almost 30 years of experience of the financial services sector, including 5 years as CEO of Skandia International.

Howard-Sneyd told db that he was extremely confident in the future of the newly rebranded closure producer.

“Bacchus has already done a few trials to show how well the product works, and with the technology and the patent to protect it, I believe this business will fly, and solve a lot of winemakers’ problems,” he said.

He also pointed out that David Taylor, inventor of the Bacchus Barrier, was still managing director of the re-branded company, and had “an excellent technical background”, having worked in the wine closures industry for the past 15 years.


CorkGuard sees the application of a thin, flexible, low-permeability film to one or both ends of a natural cork

According to Howard-Sneyd, CorkGuard is now in a position to supply “thousands” of closures for trial bottlings, “if not millions”, although the company is planning to “build up to full commercial production by September 2014.”

He forecast that demand would outstrip supply of the technology which he said offers “all the benefits of natural cork without the drawbacks”, citing TCA tainting and random oxidation as two potential problems arising from using natural cork without the CorkGuard film.

He also said he expected CorkGuard to come out with a “range of products” in the future, possibly using plastic membranes of varying thicknesses, which, when applied to the natural corks, would provide different oxygen transmission rates.

However, Howard-Sneyd acknowledged that CorkGuard was not the only cork closure employing membrane technology to prevent taints and help control oxygen ingress, noting the existence of Procork, although he declined to comment further on the competitor.

Procork was founded over ten years ago and claims to produce “the first natural cork with a patented crystalline coating that allowed wine to breathe and mature without contamination from the cork,” according to the product’s website.

Procork currently has two production plants, one in Australia’s Barossa and a further more recently established facility near Porto in Portugal.

Meanwhile, speaking to db about his other projects, Howard-Sneyd said that his Domaine of the Bee wine operation was “nearly reaching the point where we are selling what we are making”.

Should the estate see demand surpass supply, Howard-Sneyd said he would consider buying more land in Roussillon, or take a lease on a further vineyard.

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