Corking idea from Sabaté

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Wine

French closures company Sabaté has developed a new wine cork that
has been treated with a TCA-extraction process. The technology is
designed to solve the problem of corkage, while avoiding the need
to use unpopular closures such as twist caps and plastic corks.

The Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) recently tested three models, and according to Sabaté USA president Eric Mercier, the results were impressive.

Sabaté's new closures were tested along with a range of other closures and closure types. A screw cap was used as the control. The three Sabaté closures tested were all technical closures manufactured with cork granules treated with the supercritical CO2 extraction process the company calls 'Diamond.'

This extraction process is designed to remove TCA, or 2,4,6-trichloroanisolea fungus, from the cork. TCA is a compound that grows in cork fibre and can cause cork taint, the musty or mouldy odour that can spoil wine. Up to one in ten bottles are estimated to be affected by this.

Mercier claims that the new Diamond closures obtained even better results than the screw cap in terms of descriptors linked to wine reduction. None of the samples approached what might be termed as 'corked' wine.

This could be an important development. Various attempts have been made by the wine industry to overcome the problem of corking, the most obvious solution being the introduction of new bottle stopping materials such as screw tops and plastic corks.

But according to market analyst Datamonitor​, these have often proven unpopular, especially among more discerning wine drinkers. In recent years plastic corks or screw top bottles have been gingerly introduced, but have met with a lukewarm reception in Europe, except in the UK.

Californian wine producer Ernest and Julio Gallo can testify to this. The firm carried out a survey in the run-up to its trial of screw capped bottles of its Turning Leaf range in Tesco stores in the UK, and found that only British consumers were truly accepting of the screw cap.

French, Italian, Spanish and Irish consumers remain very attached to natural corks, partly because they believe that it indicates a better wine, but also because it is part and parcel of the wine drinking experience.

The problem therefore has been how to solve the problem of tainted wine, while ensuring that the product does not lose its appeal. It is for this reason that Sabaté began to develop its process to remove TCA particles from the bark.

Sabaté, which developed the technology jointly by Sabaté in France and the Supercritical Fluids Laboratory of the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), had planned to begin industrial production of treated corks upon completion of its own dedicated facilities in 2005, is now temporarily producing small batches of closures using the identical technology under its own strict supervision.

"This is a solution that our New World markets have been demanding, and we are doing our best to provide a timely response,"​ said Mercier.

Sabaté's new 27,000 sq. ft. cork treatment facility is under construction in San Vicente De Alcantara, Province of Extremadura, Spain. The new plant will treat up to 2,500 tons of raw cork annually. The plant is expected to be fully operational by mid-2005 and will expand as demand grows for the specially treated closures.

Sabaté USA was founded in 1995 and is based in Napa, California. The company is a subsidiary of France-based Sabaté, the closure division of OENEO, a global leader in supplying products to winemakers worldwide. Founded in 1939, Sabaté ranks as the world's second largest supplier of cork wine closures and is engaged in all wine-producing countries.

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