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UK bulk wine bottlers going back to cork

Two of the UK’s bulk wine bottlers are installing facilities that will allow brands to close their products with cork stoppers alongside screwcaps – a result, db was told last week, of cork’s increased desirability.

Broadland Drinks new corking lines are said to be well-suited to premium bulk wines and brands

During a meeting with UK-based wine consultant Clem Yates MW and Amorim marketing director Carlos de Jesus at Wine Paris on Tuesday 13 February, it became clear that there is an increased demand for cork among wine brands, which, they said, is being fuelled by the product’s strong sustainable credentials.

Proof of this development, they told db, can be seen in the decision by two UK bulk wine bottlers to install bottling lines that can seal products with cork, in addition to existing lines for closing bottles with screwcaps.

Yates recorded that Encirc Beverages were putting in a corking line that db has been assured will be ready for use in the next couple of months, following a request from a “top 20” wine brand that is making the move from screwcap to cork for its bulk-shipped wines for the UK market.

Meanwhile, Broadland Drinks is installing a new corking machine at Norfolk-based wine packing facility “as part of its mission to help retailers and brand owners to cut their carbon footprints”.

Speaking to db about the move by both Encirc and Broadland to offer the possibility for bulk-shipped wine to be sealed with corks when bottled in the UK, Yates said that cork’s carbon negative* nature was becoming an increasing draw for wine brands, while commenting that while once the UK trade were “dismissive of cork due to the risk of TCA taint,” she added, “now the technology is there to remove that issue.”

Commenting on market trends more generally, de Jesus told db that global sales of cork stoppers were “growing”, noting that the total market for cork today was 13.2 billion units, with screwcaps selling a bit less than 6bn annually.

While the overall market for wine is not increasing, cork – and screwcaps – were increasing in sales at the expense of plastic stoppers, which are in decline, according to de Jesus.

Looking back over recent history, de Jesus said, “Amorim was making around 2.5bn when screwcaps and plastics came on the scene, but now we are producing 6 billion cork stoppers each year – plastics and screwcaps have been good for us; we needed that kick in the pants.”

* A report conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, commissioned by Amorim, suggests that a single natural cork stopper can capture up to 392g of CO2.

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