Champagne will use plastic 'in three years'

  • Tuesday 30 April 2002

Champagne will be using plastic stoppers within the next three years, synthetic closure producers NuKorc say.

Australian-based NuKorc supplies stoppers made of extruded plastic - the material is compressed into a 'sausage' and is then cut up into stopper-sized pieces. The company has now developed the NuSpark, which until it goes into the bottle looks like a normal, though much fatter, stopper. It has been in field tests for some 18 months now.

According to managing director Brian Dolling, cava producers Freixenet and a clutch of Australian sparkling winemakers are already delighted with results – and his French distributors can't wait to bring the good news to Champagne.

'There is no doubt that Champagne will take a synthetic closure within three years,' he told decanter.com, adding that 'high quality' Champagnes would take longer. He made no claims for the performance of the stopper in vintage sparkling wine, saying they 'had to be realistic – we're not trying to sell for vintages that won't be drunk for 20 years.'

NuSpark has the undeniable advantage of costing 50% less than natural cork stoppers, and it is easier to insert. According to Dolling it is also perfect for sparkling wine which is more susceptible to cork taint (TCA) than still wine. The stopper is bombarded with 450-500kpa (kilopascals) of pressure, which 'makes the likelihood of TCA coming out far greater.'

Australian sparkling producers – who wish to remain unidentified – have had wine laid down for eight months now, and are pleased with how the new stopper is performing.

'It's holding the gas pressure perfectly, and the wine is still fresh as a daisy,' Dolling said.

Freixenet are particularly pleased because synthetic stoppers can come in any colour. 'They have black bottle, black capsule, black muselage (wire). Now they can have a black stopper as well.'

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