By KYM WILSDON – Part of this correspondence was published in The Independent Weekly on 24 October 2008 - for the latest on cork stink, click on the cigar the bonnie lass above's got her fangs around. Photo from The Independent Weekly.
I am writing to request that the Independent Weekly publish a response to Philip White’s articles of 29 August titled Put a cork in it! and his recent follow-up piece of 8 October headed Cork comes unscrewed.
Amorim is keen to address a number of inaccuracies in Philip’s articles and some of the disparaging comments he has made about the company and natural cork.
It is particularly disappointing that Philip White does not appear to have made any effort to bring himself up-to-date with the latest developments in cork production and the substantial improvement that has been made in the performance of natural cork as a wine closure over the past decade. Such information is readily available on the internet.
We would be pleased if our response [following] could be published on the “thirst” page as well as on your website as was the case with Philip’s articles.
Amorim Australasia Pty Ltd
To The Editor:
In reference to Philip White’s articles in the Independent Weekly on 29 August and more recently on 8 October, he might want to take some advice from one of his editor’s headlines and “Put a cork in it!” — at least until he has all the facts and brings himself up-to-date.
Amorim, the world’s leading natural cork producer, is not simply “a trader that ships cork bark”, but rather a publicly-listed global company that invests millions of dollars each year in research and development to enhance its products. These products are sold to some of the world’s most demanding and reputable organisations, including leaders in the aerospace, wine, sporting goods, heavy construction and fashion industries.
Rather than doing “sweaty deals”, Amorim prefers to establish long-term relationships with its customers, working in close consultation with them across a number of industry sectors worldwide. These are exactly the type of relationships Amorim enjoys with the world’s biggest wineries.
In terms of quality control, the cork industry has come a long way in the last 10 years. At Amorim, advanced production processes and stringent quality control measures supported by scientific analysis ensure any “vermin” are evicted well before our corks are delivered to a winemaker.
As for chlorine, it has not been used in cork production for well over a decade.
In his latest article, Philip White raises the issue of oxidation. Over hundreds of years cork has proven to be an adequate oxygen barrier in sealing billions of bottles of wine worldwide. The chemistry underlying the process of so-called ‘random oxidation’ in wine — with the obvious operative concept here being random instead of predictable — is unclear. However, a number of respected wine chemists, including Australia’s Dr John Casey and New Zealand’s Dr Alan Limmer, suggest the problem lies in bottling procedures, not with the closure.
Further research that looks at all variables including closure selection, bottling procedures and winemaking practices will contribute to fact-based knowledge. We need to move on from unsubstantiated statements that do not contribute to rational debate.
Members of the scientific community also undertake regular analysis on cork quality and results point to a significant improvement in recent years. The US-based Cork Quality Council, for example, shows an 80 per cent reduction in 2,4,6 trichloroanisole (commonly referred to as cork taint or TCA) levels in bulk cork imports since 2001. The average TCA count has dropped from 4.0 parts per trillion (ppt) several years ago to less than 1.0 ppt — well below sensory thresholds.
In addition, international expert Dr Pascal Chatonnet, a leading scientist and Bordeaux winemaker, stated in a 2007 conference in Napa that lab tests showed the incidence of cork related taint had declined from 4.9 per cent in 2003 to a mere 0.2 per cent in 2006.
On the issue of environmental sustainability, natural cork is streets ahead of alternative closures. That’s not just Amorim’s point of view, it is a fact supported by a number of independent life-cycle studies on the carbon footprint of wine closures. Not a big surprise when we are comparing the ultimate natural renewable product with oil-derived and aluminium products.
Apart from being renewable, recyclable and biodegradable, natural cork also plays an important role in carbon dioxide retention. In fact, it is estimated that the cork oak forests of the Mediterranean basin help offset a massive 10 million tonnes of CO2 every year, making them a significant carbon sink.
Industry attention is now turning to areas such as environmental performance and achieving value growth for Australian wines in the global market, as outlined in the strategy, Wine Australia: Directions to 2025. And these are areas where cork and Amorim can play a supportive role.
Today, we have great confidence in the technical performance of our products as well as our ability to support the industry in terms of environmental sustainability. We believe natural cork has a very bright future.
Amorim's Kym Wilsden's comments are fascinating.
There's the reference to billions of bottles of wine, then the concession that almost 5% of all the wine ever made anywhere in the world, up to and including 2003, and bottled under cork, was probably tainted by the product in question. Isn't that one bottle in 20? For all wine ever under cork? In terms of cases of 12, just so I understand, what exactly is a "mere" 0.2% of 2008 world wine production equivalent to? By my calculations, a 50,000 case winery loses 100 cases, a year, which they probably replace free, making it nearer to 200 cases, a year. Hope it's not Grange.
And I see there's still a problem getting eviction notices through to that pesky 1 ppt of the vermin population.
2. FIRSTY wrote
Well, Kym, that's fascinating. You fail to address Mr. White's suggestion that vendors of wine should not expect their customers to carry a special spanner or crank handle around just to get at the wine in the bottle. You don't realise that the lovely lass above has had to pull your bark plug out with her beautiful teeth!
You most noticeably fail to claim that since all your bark-cleansing experiments have been so successful, Coke and the medicine business haven't flocked back to cork. You just don't get it, do you. No. You have far too much at stake.
3. WHEEZER wrote
And tobacco doesn't cause lung cancer.
4. ANDREW GRAHAM wrote
'The Cork Quality Council is a nonprofit organization sponsored by selected wine cork suppliers.'
Very impartial then...