António Amorim Discusses the Future of Wine and the Role of Cork: An Exclusive Interview

By | 13 May 2024

António Amorim, head of the world’s leading producer of cork stoppers, discusses the vital and sustainable role played by cork in a changing wine world.


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With more than 150 years of history, Amorim Cork is the world leader in cork stoppers. Looking ahead, what are some of the key priorities and initiatives for the near future?

António Amorim (ARA): Most of the initiatives that we have for the near future will emphasize some all-important topics where wine and cork intersect and the latter bring a robust contribution from a technical performance point of view, from a premium image point of view, and from a sustainable perspective. We have spent the last 20 years taking care of the faults that cork could bring to the wine, and I think we’ll be spending the next 20 years reemphasizing the value and the add-on that cork can bring to wines. In addition to this, issues like anticounterfeiting measures for wine and spirits, where the cork stopper could be a key player, the sustainabilitystatus of wines sealed with cork, and those new products that will facilitate the convenience elements of the stopper. So those are for us the starting points that allow us to look at the future with a very bright perspective.

In general terms, how do you see the wine market today in terms of different segments?

ARA: I think that we have some challenges ahead of us. Clearly wine consumption is not growing globally, people probably are drinking less, but drinking better. I think that good quality wines and the most iconic wines will continue to do very well, but we need to make wine more attractive for younger consumers, and participating in that market segment is absolutely critical today. And I’m sure that with all the work being done by the most important players in the market, we will bring people to look at wine with a new, bright perspective for the future. With sparkling wines, I believe it’s different. I think that this segment is enjoying some positive growth, it is basically everywhere.


What role will the current leading wine regions play in the future?

ARA: I’m of the opinion that current prominent wine regions like Burgundy, Bordeaux, California, and parts of Italy will become even more notable. However, fresh contenders will also rise, driven by an increasing interest in high-altitude vineyard cultivation. This trend is noticeable both in South America and Europe as people seek to capture a unique freshness in their wines.

Would you mind elaborating on how the shift in consumption could possibly influence the fine wine industry?

ARA: As I see it, wine is a product of aspiration. The fine wine sector, owing to its scarcity, iconic status yet rarity, will continue to draw new connoisseurs. When discussing wine and sustainability, it’s not just about the economical, environmental, and social aspects – it’d be incomplete without including the cultural facet. Being acquainted with the most eminent wine labels and the ability to share that experience with friends, in my opinion, is a testament to genuine passion and generosity. Therefore, I firmly believe in the potential for the fine wine sector to expand in the upcoming years, an opportunity that’s undoubtedly promising for wine cork. Considering the innate attributes of cork, it naturally enhances the premium perception of the wines it seals.

Beyond the technical superiority and eco-friendly credentials of cork stoppers that you brought up, there seems to be a third dimension – perhaps more cultural or emotive – that adds value to cork. Could you help explain this ‘cork factor’?

ARA: The significance of cork to wine is manifold, bringing a sense of tradition, an impression of premium quality, and perhaps most importantly, enhancing performance. For instance, consider Château Margaux of 2000, which was bottled in 2002. Gourmet critics recommend waiting until at least 2008 to sample it. The question then arises, what changes occurred within the bottle over these six years that amplified the sensory experience in 2008 compared to 2002? One answer is the contribution of the cork. Additionally, it’s worth noting the advanced sustainability properties of cork materials. This is an aspect I believe has a growing reputation in the modern wine industry.

Being well aware of your fondness for wine, what are your personal favourites and what varieties can we find stored in your personal cellar?

ARA: Like any enthusiast, I have a specific fondness for exquisite wines, my top choice being a good white Burgundy. However, I believe fantastic wines are being produced in all major wine regions worldwide and what one prefers can change depending on the occasion. The more I experiment, the more I discover newer styles and the further my curiousity to learn about wines intensifies. In this manner, the journey through wines is a delightful, perpetual adventure.

Amorim Cork is a major distributor, selling in excess of 6 billion cork stoppers annually across 90 nations. What is the company’s role in promoting the cork’s properties and benefits, particularly in relation to sustainability and as a superior wine sealing solution?

ARA: Over the past 25 years, we’ve diligently conducted our research. By forming unique R&D teams and creating innovative cork types, we have developed new technologies to enhance the cork’s performance, and introduce unique cork typologies. Our future focus lies in presenting the intrinsic benefits and added value of cork for wines.

Could you shed some light on the unique features of cork that render it superior to other wine closures?

ARA: Choosing cork over other closures boils down to three key reasons. Firstly, performance – the wine’s evolution history with cork and whether the results would have been the same with synthetic closures. The answer is a resounding no. Secondly, premiumization – the world’s finest wines use cork closures. This implies that cork, being the top closure for high-end wines, is the best choice for all kinds of wines. Lastly, sustainability – each ton of cork produced leads to a capture of 73 tons of CO2, a feat unparalleled primarily due to the fact we never fell a cork tree.

What steps are being taken pertaining to forest research and cork production?

ARA: We think that the future of cork is a very bright one, with so many credentials I believe that our market can only grow. So today we are tackling the supply side, researching the cork oaks that can better resist to climate change, grow faster and give better quality cork. We are eventually studying the clonal selection as it has been done with olive trees, and with vines in general. We are scaling them up, we are creating our own nurseries and of course we are planting. Alone, this year, we have planted more that 300,000 cork trees. We have a plan to plant over five years 1.5 million cork trees. In time, this will bring more raw material, but also more carbon capture.

Amorim cork has developed some of the most groundbreaking technologies in the cork industry, including specific innovations for natural whole cork stoppers such as NDtech and Naturity, which made a significant contribution to win the battle against TCA and other off flavors. Going forward, how will you keep Amorim ahead in terms of innovation and R&D?

ARA: Well, when you are the leader of an industry you really need to lead. If you don’t lead, the risk of becoming second or third is huge. Innovation and R&D are clearly the ways that will allow us to continue to move forward, stay focused on the scientific facts for the added value that cork can bring to a bottle of wine. Until now we have looked at the negatives of cork, which we have dealt with. Now we need the conversation to include the positives of cork, and how we bring additional value to wine. Of course, technology for us is absolutely crucial. The introduction of machine learning, AI is absolutely key. By the end of 2024, all the natural cork sorting machines that we have will be equipped with machine learning. Once again: this approach to R&D will not stop.

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