Natural Cork - Cork and Wine

Inseparable by nature

The cork stopper has unique innate qualities, which interact beneficially with wine. It contributes to developing its character, gives it authenticity and brings it value. Cork, which is just as natural and noble as wine, benefits from the production of wine and reciprocates with premium performance stoppers. Both industries have grown together over the centuries.

When Dom Pierre Pérignon decided to swap the wooden stoppers in use in the mid-17th century for cork stoppers, he caused an unprecedented change of events in the wine industry. The French monk, who would become famous for his champagne, sought an alternative to the stoppers used at the time, which were wrapped in hemp soaked in olive oil, failed to provide an effective seal, played a dubious role in the preservation of wine and were always popping out. The solution was cork.

Thousand of years before, the Egyptians had already used cork, followed by the Greeks and Romans, as amphorae discovered in Pompeii bear witness. It was, however, the driving force of Dom Pérignon that paved the way for the use of cork associated with the fast growth of the wine industry. In Portugal, during the following century, where today the centre of the cork and Port Wine industries is found, wine was allowed to age in glass cylindrical bottles for the first time. Thus, it was the simultaneous development of cork stoppers and wine bottles which made the modern wine industry possible.

A sophisticated natural valve

It is believed that just as sparkling wines favour the use of cork, it also played a decisive role in affirming this famous wine. Its natural characteristics - light, easy to compress, impermeable, resistant to moisture and rot, and its resilience - make it an inimitable stopper. It protects wine from variations in temperature and prevents it from deteriorating over time. The discovery of a collection of 168 bottles of champagne in perfect condition, shipwrecked in the Baltic Sea around two hundred years ago, bears witness to the cork stopper's unique ability to preserve wines and champagnes all over the world.

Research carried out by the University of Bordeaux suggests that cork contributes in a unique way to the development of wine. The secret is a complex structure, which technology is yet to replicate. Each cork stopper is a sophisticated natural valve, made up of around 800 million tiny cells of suberin (almost 40 million cells per cubic centimetre), filled with an air-like gas.

When compressed, they behave like a cushion and constantly try to return to their original shape and size, thus adapting to the bottleneck and maintaining a tight seal. It is the air cells that allow a tiny amount of oxygen to permeate the bottle after it has been sealed, which has a beneficial impact on the development of the wine.

«I am certain that cork is the perfect option to seal a bottle of wine. It is a noble and reliable gift from nature.»

Alfonso Larrain
President, Concha y Toro, Chile

Premium and aspirational factor

The world's finest wines have always used cork stoppers. Even in the case of champagnes, prestigious wine producers such as Ruinart de Reims and Moët et Chandon, have used them since the 18th century. Currently, producers such as Amorim apply their know-how to the development of new and better solutions which allow the use of a premium product to be broadened to fast consumption wines and spirits, creating products geared towards specific segments. For example, the most expensive whisky in the world, the Dalmore Trinitas 64, and the oldest, the Mortlach 70 years old, by Gordon & MacPhail, are sealed with Amorim cork stoppers.

After a period where some losses in the market share for cork stoppers were seen, the increase in global wine consumption and the confidence of oenologists and consumers have contributed to further growth, particularly in the USA and in some emerging markets such as China, Russia and other non-cork producing countries. Among the reasons which motivate the choice of the cork stopper is the growing perception of the premium and aspirational factors - it is associated with good or excellent quality wines.

Several surveys and market research show that both consumers and wine producers increasingly elect cork also because it is a natural and environment friendly product. They value its traditional association with wine and the fact that it enables it to develop in all its splendour.