News USA September 27, 2014 - A growing list of leading wineries, including St. Francis, Bogle and Fetzer, are speaking up about the benefits of using natural cork. They recognize that not only does natural cork allow wines to age perfectly, but using natural cork also provides a potential competitive advantage when it comes to marketing their wine brands.
According to Wines & Spirits "25th Annual Survey of Top 50 Restaurant Wine Brands," wines finished primarily with cork accounted for 90 percent of the brands selected in these top restaurants. This represents a 21 percent increase from a decade ago, compared to a 39 percent decline in wines with screw caps and a 70 percent drop for those with synthetic closures.
"These survey figures are consistent with the Aug. 16, 2014, Nielsen scan of the Top 100 Premium Brands, which showed that since the start of 2010, there has been a steady increase in cork's market share -- with a 30 percent positive slope for cork-finished wines compared to a 9 percent slope for wines with alternative closures," commented Peter Weber, Executive Director of the Cork Quality Council (CQC).
Christopher Silva, President and CEO of St. Francis, said, "We believe that natural cork is an integral part of the romance of the wine experience. There is nothing that can duplicate the iconic 'pop' when a cork is pulled from the bottle."
Silva said that his winery discontinued using cork two decades ago, due to inconsistent cork quality. But he and his team kept testing corks on a few cases of wine each year in the hope of returning to cork. They saw a steady improvement, and by 2012 they were convinced it was time to return to cork.
He added that using natural cork is consistent with St. Francis' commitment to sustainability. "We are a certified sustainable Sonoma County business that is powered by solar energy, uses eco-friendly packaging, and is active in water conservation and recycling."
Weber continued, "In addition to cork's robust sustainability credentials, wineries are also benefitting from the hundreds of million dollars that Portuguese cork manufacturers have invested in new technologies and improved quality-control measures."
In 2013, the CQC members conducted over 30,000 analyses. Their combined screening records show a steady reduction in measurable 2,4,6-Trichloroanisle (TCA) levels that are now 95 percent lower than the results seen when records were first tabulated in 2001.
"Using natural cork is an integral part of our message, heritage and culture," Silva added.
Editor's note: The text of this article was supplied to TASTE News Service from proponents of the cork industry. The editor has traveled to Portugal twice to investigate the centuries old process of harvesting cork trees and to see recent advances in production of bottle closures made from that cork. He thought readers would enjoy this insight on the topic.
Ol' Republic Brewery
Nevada City, California
Style: Dortmunder Export
Serving Style: Kegs
Availability: Year around in Nevada City/Grass Valley area and in much of Northern Californa
Appearance: “Extremely clear. Golden.”
Aroma: “Nice sweet aroma.”
Taste: “Amazing and refreshing. Very well balanced. One of my favorite beers that I've had this year.
Food Affinity: “White fish—maybe bass. Mediterranean dishes. Thai food. Sushi.”
Reviewer Christopher Fairman is sure no canaries were harmed in the production of this beer
2011 Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
Suggested Retail: $55
“A fine bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from a legendary producer. Grapes were sourced from several vineyards in the Napa Valley and the Cabernet component is buoyed by inclusion of 14% Merlot. Barrel aged for 16 months (35% new French oak).
“The nose displays a minty, herbal quality, complemented by a little vanilla from the oak. The dried herb and currant fruit segues into flavors of blackberry and a little dark cherry. Nice full feeling in the mouth precedes silky finish. A fine example of Napa Cabernet. Plenty of personality and, at just 13.5% alcohol, there is balance and sophistication. A relative bargain for Napa Cab in this era.”
Food Affinity: “Would be a fine addition to almost any dinner where you'd want to pour a red wine. We think grilled Portobello mushrooms that had been marinated in a garlic and an oil/vinegar dressing would be a meaty, non-meat option. Carnivores could pull a medium-rare porterhouse off that same grill.”
Sapporo Breweries, Japan
Style: Japanese rice lager
Serving Style: 22-oz.cans, 12, 16 and 23-ounce bottles, 12-ounce bottles and keg (our sample from draft)
Availability: Worldwide, year around.
Appearance: “Exactly what I want in a beer.”
Aroma: “There's a distinctive aroma. I can tell it's Sapporo.”
Taste: “I like all the Asian beers—Kirin, Asahi, Singha . . . they're all superior to domestic lagers, but I like Sapporo the best."
Food Affinity: “I don't really put (the concept) together. Beer goes with almost anything, but I think it's a totally separate deal.”
Reviewer Rick Lavelle is a retired federal attorney.