Closing arguments

30 August, 2016

This appeal of ‘natural’ is one that is gaining ground across the board. At the end of 2014, synthetic stopper manufacturer Nomacorc created a version of SelectBio – a stopper with better sustainability values, being largely made from plant-based polymers, and coming with a 15-year shelf life – that looks and feels like cork: the colour of cork, with the cellular format of cork printed on the sides, and a soft, creamy matt texture to mimic the feel of cork.

In 2016, Nomacorc built on this idea with the launch of Zest – a stopper, with the look and feel of natural cork – for sparkling wines. It has the corky feel and is also made partially from plant-based polymers. Malcolm Thompson, Nomacorc’s vice-president for strategy and innovation, says: “Zest is our latest roll-out and our first entry into the sparkling wine category. It has the SelectBio technology, with soft feel and natural look, and is decorated using new printing technology – it’s almost indistinguishable from two-plus-zero,” the classic mushroom stoppers for sparkling wines.

He adds: “It has a single, low OTR; we want tightness, to keep carbon dioxide in. And it has a zero carbon footprint.” Needless to say Nomacorc’s pretty happy with the product, which already has a “high demand”, and between 12 to 18 months’ shelf life, which is more than enough for the vast majority of bubbly.

Growth in the sparkling category has not been lost on Cork Supply, which has also expanded into stoppers for this sector. Jewell says: “We recently purchased a facility for the production of technical corks [which] recently began producing Cuvée, a new line of sparkling wine closures.”


Given the ‘pop’ associated with bubbly, it’s interesting that screwcap manufacturers have, for quite a while, offered options for both fully sparkling and semi-sparkling (frizzante) wines. Amcor launched Stelvin P, for sparkling wines, about a decade ago. The company’s marketing communication manager Karen Quirchove says: “Today we offer one unique liner for this type of closure, different from our usual range of liners for still wine. The Stelvin P liner has a different foam density and diameter to support a higher level of pressure – up to six bars.”

The other key screwcap supplier, Guala Closures, has Viiva for sparkling wine and Moss for semi-sparkling. Anne Seznec, its marketing director, says Viiva is a big seller in Australia. “They use a lot of sparkling wine outdoors – picnics on the beach, at Christmas. But it’s more difficult in Europe – there are rules for some appellations which require mushroom-shaped closures. We are still facing these legal issues,” she says.

Screwcaps for sparkling will take time, Seznec adds: “Like screwcap on still wine 50 years ago. But it is super convenient. There are lots of habits to change.” In contrast to Amcor, Guala offers dedicated sparkling wine liners with different OTRs.

Ranges of liners with different OTRs reflect the innovation changes in screwcaps for still wine, which have been all about offering different OTRs to customers according to the shelf-life and bottle-maturation profile of the wine. In 2015 Guala introduced three new liners for still wine screwcaps, each with a different OTR. Intriguingly consumers, should they want to, can identify which liner is being used because, Seznec says: “The name of the liner is on the inside of the cap. It took two years to fix with the liner supplier the printing on the internal layer. It’s also a track and trace aspect for customers.”

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