On the last Wednesday the 29th of April I had the privilege to attend to refreshing seminar about new technology developments of cork stoppers. This seminar was given by Professor Miguel Cabral which is a Microbiology Professor in the Pharmacy Faculty and the Director for Research and Development of Amorim & Irmãos S. A. at the auditorium from Forestry Department of Technique University of Lisbon where I work. As almost everyone these days might now the most interesting use for cork is as wine and champagne bottle stoppers. In addition, the public opinion is well aware from the threat that screw caps and synthetic closures are making in the use of cork stoppers. This is quite a concern: both because cork stoppers are in itself a better environmental choice as well as because cork oak stands offer a unique habitat where there is a considerable biodiversity.
The seminar as focused in two main topics: (i) Understanding the permeability of closures and (ii) Preventing, control and curative measures to deal with TCA. The permeability study was based on a Ph.D. financed by Amorim & Irmãos S. A. that yielded 3 papers about this issue in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and shows a better understanding of the behaviour of wine bottle closures. It demonstrates that for wines that require ageing the choice of cork stoppers proves technically to be good. Synthetic closures tend to suffer oxidation as they tend to allow a lot of oxygen to enter in the bottle whereas the screw caps tend to lead to reduction in aromas as they tend to allow too little oxygen in the wine bottle. The screw caps of new generation tend to deal a bite better with this issue. Regarding TCA that has appointed one of the main problems of using cork as wine bottle closures it was demonstrated that a lot have changed to deal with it and today is far to be the problem that was just a few years ago. TCA has been taking seriously by the cork industry and a set of measures was established to minimize TCA existence in the cork stoppers. Such measures start straight after the cork harvesting and last until the cork leaves the cork mill. The TCA content is analysed through the process to ensure that the cork stoppers coming out in the mark will have a TCA level below of what is internationally accepted.
In summary: the cork industry has been making an effort to understand the permeability from cork stoppers and minimize the TCA content. What they have shown makes cork technically as a solid alternative as wine bottle closures. Therefore, there are rising hopes for the cork oak stands.