When packaging their product, winemakers look to preserve aroma, color and flavor at a reasonable cost while avoiding the chances of debilitating contamination or premature oxidation. Additionally, wine closures may be chosen depending on the wine’s qualities, expected consumption date or the market in general. The combination of these factors can make choosing the most suitable closure a complex and sometimes confusing task. Closure producers have a lot to offer, whether natural, plastic or technical corks, screw or crown caps. There also exist more unique closures that allow a product to stand out on crowded shelves. The closure industry has become very competitive, driving innovation regarding the best closure choices for any situation. However, it’s still all about managing oxygen ingress and transfer ratios. Because each wine has its own unique factors, it is ultimately up to the winemaker to decide which closure is the best choice for their wine.
Aluminum Closures Make a Push in the Marketplace: Herti US, Inc.
Herti US, Inc. offers more than 40 different sizes of aluminum closures for wine, spirits, olive oil and mineral waters. Their products have diameters ranging from 17 to 43 mm and heights of 12 to 60 mm, used for sealing bottles with capacities of 50 ml up to a U.S. gallon (4.54 l). With various sizes, shapes, and printing capabilities, manufacturers can help winemakers create an overall attractive package with consistent branding and product recognition. In addition, customers can choose from different design options, including up to five color offset printing with matte, semi-matte and glossy finishes. They also offer hot foil printing, embossing and top relief with a wide range of decorative capabilities and liner choices. Herti continually invests in innovative products to satisfy the evolving requirements of wine producers. Vinstar is the trademark under which Herti sells its aluminum closures designed for wine bottle packaging. The most popular standard closures offered for the wine industry are the 22×15, 22×30, 25×17, 25×43, 28×44 and 30×60 sizes.
Zahari Zahariev, CEO of Herti, told The Grapevine Magazine that aluminum closures now represent a reasonably priced, modern way of closing bottles, which plays a significant role in preserving a wine’s quality, branding and impact, and also the winemaker’s environmental footprint.
“Aluminum screw cap closures are simply cost-effective compared to other closure choices and suitable for both glass and PET bottles,” said Zahariev. “Aluminum closures offer endless creative possibilities for bottle design, and screw closures are now widely accepted and embraced as a suitable closure for all types of wines. With that acceptance comes an excellent base for the customization that becomes an important aspect of the winemaker’s brand building. An aluminum closure can be a piece of art by itself, but many design options are available to make it stand out as your own.”
Zahariev said COVID-19 affected the industry because some sectors had to stop working and shut down while the retail, wine-to-go and online markets saw a boom. The standard closure business mainly stayed steady while the demand for luxury closures diminished. The screw closure business for the small bottles used in the aircraft and hotel industry vanished.
“We look for the trend to get back to normal as restrictions fall or get lifted,” said Zahariev. “The COVID-19 pandemic led to a renewed industry focus on environmental commitment, meaning sustainability along with increased sensitivity about industry effects on our environment. This type of renewed commitment always drives innovation, and it did the same to the closure industry. Increased use and demand for aluminum screw cap closures are just one example of how the desired convenience factor also happened to be environmentally friendly. Aluminum screw caps are fully recyclable, with any production waste reused within the process. In addition to the screw caps, the glass bottle that the cap gets installed on is recyclable, so that’s a real eco-friendly situation.”
Zahariev said that winemakers should look to, invest in and partner with companies that focus on the winemaker’s needs. Herti continuously invests in the latest production technologies and organizational improvements to guarantee its clients the best service and the highest quality products in an optimal timeframe. While providing the most popular, standard sizes of wine closures, they also offer the more petite sizes routinely used for ready-to-drink, single-serve, and mini bottles supplied by airlines and hotels. They come in 16 standard stock colors with numerous possibilities for decoration and design, making it easy for a winemaker to make the right closure choice for their wines.
“At this point, winemakers generally know the pros and cons of different closures,” said Zahariev. “What’s important is to be able to get what fits your needs at a reasonable price. Aluminum screw closures offer that over other options and are fully recyclable, and offer numerous sizes and liners with a wide range of possibilities for decorations to enhance and promote unique and consistent branding across the board. In addition, aluminum screw closures offer the consumer the ability to open a bottle without any special devices easily and then have the option to reseal the bottle for later consumption without worrying about spillage. Storage and transportation are easier and don’t require the bottle to remain upright. We build mutual partnerships and maintain continuous contact with every client, and always keep our promises. We believe that your brand tomorrow is our business today.”
Cork is Abundant, Sustainable & Yes, Still Very Useful:
Dr. Dinah Bird, Baker-Bird Winery & Distillery
Cork and composition cork are the traditional choices for wine closures, and contrary to what some have said, they are not on their way out. Even with the push towards aluminum, the percentage of corked wines has remained consistent over the past several years. But with more closure choices comes the opportunity to fine-tune your needs and choose the closure that best fits your wine, your reputation and your brand. And when you happen to own Baker-Bird Winery & Distillery, you stick with what has allowed you to remain in business since the late 1700s, including using corks in your spirits and wines.
“Baker-Bird Winery is the oldest, largest wine cellar in America and naturally possesses a great deal of history surrounding our winery,” said owner Dr. Dinah Bird. “Being as historically significant as we are, we want and need our guests to experience the historical and traditional setting of our winery, our town and, of course, our selection of wines too.
“We know that some wines can be better with the use of the aluminum screw closures, but some can also be better with corks because of the aging and oxidation process they provide and allow, like a Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Franc is just one wine that benefits from aging and oxidation. It’s part of the wine’s overall process, and you won’t get that process with an aluminum screw cap. As a winemaker, you have to be aware of your product and how it ages and reacts. For example, our estate wines bring a little higher alcohol content, so they naturally oxidize a little faster than those with lesser alcohol content.”
Bird told The Grapevine Magazine that if her winery ever decided to use different or synthetic closures, it would likely be on their bourbon-aged wines simply because of their higher alcohol content. Higher alcohol content makes the wine’s aroma and taste more time-sensitive due to higher oxidization rates.
“We believe and maintain that the act of drinking wine should appeal to all of our senses to create a fulfilling and memorable experience,” said Bird. “What’s better than hearing that familiar pop of a cork pulled from a bottle of wine or champagne, releasing the wonderful aromas to all who are around? And it’s always been customary for some to inspect that cork after opening. Much nicer and somehow more elegant and satisfying than unscrewing a cap and simply placing it on the table beside you.”
“Closure choice is just one part of the overall packaging of wine,” said Bird. “And the wine’s packaging is like the clothing that a person chooses to wear. Some clothes are naturally more casual and others considerably more formal. To me, aluminum screw caps resemble casual wear, and corks are formal wear. A winemaker should choose the package, or clothes, based on the product, the environment, and the circumstances of consumption.”
Bird said there has been a move towards a broader population of consumers drinking wine, much of that taking place in more casual settings due to the pandemic. As a result, more wine is consumed in informal situations, leading to a broader acceptance of screwcap closures for wines and a wider acceptance of canned wines.
“The aluminum screw closures have worked well in that they are great for ready-to-drink wines that can be easily resealed and do not need or benefit from aging,” said Bird. “But cork trees are not endangered, and the supply is equally sustainable. As for recycling, natural corks are indeed only a one-use item when it comes to closing wines, but you can be creative and recycle them in other ways. Baker-Bird Winery is proud to provide a total customer experience for our visitors. In doing so, we allow the customers to have a hands-on experience in corking bottles by hand, using our recycled corks and bottles. By recycling our corks and bottles in a creative and fun way, our visitors get a hands-on experience that they don’t get anywhere else. It is a rewarding experience for all involved.”