Screw Caps Banned!
The cork manufacturers of the world are pretty smart, visionary folk. Early on, when the first alternative closures for wine hit the market in response to too many wines gone bad due to tainted corks, cork manufacturers when on a promotional crusade to keep corks relevant. I learned today of what must be their greatest coup yet in their battled to maintain their closure market dominance:
They’ve simply found a way to keep the market all to themselves.
A press release hit the wires today noting that Spain has outlawed the use of anything but cork in wines made from 11 different wine region, including Priorat. In order for the wines from these regions to earn DO status, the equivalent of America’s AVA, they must close their still and sparkling wines with cork. It’s essentially a move to ban screwcaps.
"This Spanish law is yet another endorsement for the cork closure,"
says Elisa Pedro, Director of Communication & International
Relations for APCOR, the consortium of Portuguese cork producers.
"Spanish law makers and wine producers are responding to what wine
drinkers the world over have been telling us for a long time — cork is
a sign of quality for wine."
So how do you save the market for cork? You dismantle the market all together. I’m pretty sure Franco would have appreciated this law. Probably Mussolini too.
Let’s be clear about something here: There is no relationship between the use of cork to close a wine and the quality of the wine under the cork. Corks do not make wine better or of higher quality. In fact, cork is among the only closures for wine that is likely to make the wine worse in some cases as a result of contaminated corks infecting the wine with TCA, a compound that offers wine that unique wet cardboard aroma. Yummmmmmmmmm..
What I don’t know is exactly how this kind of idiotic, anti-free market law got past. It might have something to do with the fact that 23% of the world’s cork forests are in Spain that account for 32% of the worlds production.
The press release, sent out by the Portuguese Cork Industry association (APCOR), does not mention this fact. Rather, it implies that the decision to ban all other closures besides cork in 11 Spanish wine regions is one that was taken to insure quality…This, of course, makes no sense.
A recent survey of members of the wine trade in the United States, including sommeliers, showed that half of them preferred closures other than cork when enjoying wine IN THEIR OWN HOME. These are people who are IN TO WINE, who obsess about wine, who see out the highest quality wines, who are most concerned with the drinking the best.
It’s true that the average wine drinker still believes the best wines have cork in them. And this is largely true. However, the changeover to screwcap closures as well as other alternatives to cork continue to rise and gain acceptance. Screwcap, non-cork closures continue to become a cheaper alternative for wineries than cork and they have the added benefit of not tainting the wine. Current estimates of the percentage of wine killed by cork taint ranges from 3% to 10%.
I imagine that in the near future the wineries in these 11 regions of Spain will come to regret and dislike this new industry protection law as they see the rest of the world adopt alternative closures that keep their wines safe. This in turn will be bad for the Spanish cork producers who will continue to see their markets shrink and the prices they can command for cork diminish.
I wonder what kind of law they’ll come up with then?