Innovating Cork Stoppers

Amorim Cork

Product innovation, improved quality of cork stoppers and increased knowledge of the interaction between the cork stopper and wine have been at the centre of attention of Amorim Cork's Research & Development and Innovation department (R & D + i). There is one clear objective: to achieve a better understanding of cork’s properties of cork, of formulae to increase its performance and efficiency in sealing wines, sparkling wines and spirits.

Reinventing the cork stopper

The investment in R & D + i covers all stages of the production process, and has produced preventive, curative and quality control measures that are unique in the industry.

After a 6-year R&D+i investment of €12 million, Corticeira Amorim launched the NDtech technology - the industry’s most advanced quality control technique.

For example, all the cork planks that are intended to be used for the manufacture of cork stoppers are subjected to the CONVEX advanced washing process, a method that not only prevents cross contamination, but also ensures that the cork is cleaner, less damp and delivers superior performance. As a result, the raw material is less vulnerable to any form of sensory contamination. ROSA (Rate of Optimal Steam Application) is also an exclusive, selective and innovative treatment, marking an important step in the treatment of cork granules, since it eliminates any traces of contamination, through the use of controlled steam.

Amorim Cork has also been a pioneer in the use of gas chromatography (GC- Gas Chromatography), a meticulous quality control system in which highly rigorous machines can examine the cork stoppers at a molecular level. Thanks to scientific advances, technological innovation and industrial digitisation, it has been possible to take this rigorous quality control tool even further.

Designed through a close partnership between Corticeira Amorim and a company based in Cambridge, UK, NDtech individually examines the presence of TCA (trichloroanisole) in each stopper, in the matter of a few seconds. This is dramatically shorter than the previous analysis times, given that existing chromatography machines required up to 14 minutes for each batch of stoppers. The new solution is based on a high-precision mechanism that is capable of detecting any cork stopper that contains more than 0.5 nanograms of TCA per litre * (parts per trillion) - the equivalent of finding a drop of water in 800 Olympic pools - and which will be automatically removed from the supply chain, thereby eliminating the risk that a contaminated cork stopper may reach consumers. Initially designed for high-end stoppers, NDtech technology is now being progressively applied to all Corticeira Amorim stoppers.

Amorim Cork’s portfolio also includes one of the latest innovations for natural cork stoppers: Helix - the world’s first stopper that, while maintaining the binomial of cork/glass, dispenses with the need for a corkscrew. It offers the perfect combination between an ergonomically-designed cork stopper and a glass bottle with an internal thread in the bottleneck.

Another of the innovation priorities embraced by Amorim Cork, in collaboration with renowned academic, scientific and laboratory institutions, is to demystify certain deeply-rooted myths about the relationship between cork and wine. In particular, the idea that the cork stopper is permeable and for this reason is able to allow the wine to breathe. Thorough investigation has countered this empirically-based conviction. After bottling, research has shown that  it is the oxygen contained in the cork stopper itself (rather than the air outside the bottle) that circulates, interacts and communicates with the wine, thereby contributing to its maturation. In fact, with a cork stopper, after two years, only a residual amount of oxygen is released into the bottle from the stopper.

* Releasable TCA content at or below the 0.5 ng/L quantification limit; analysis performed in accordance to ISO 20752.

Highlighted Projects

R&D and Innovation by business unit

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