Major cork suppliers back South African Cork Council

Thursday, 1 March, 2007
Marlene Truter Communications
The South African Cork Council (SACC) is backed by the ten major suppliers of natural cork in the world and according to SACC Chairman, Tony Haughton; great strides are being made to improve the quality of imports and to re-instil confidence in cork closures.
The SACC is a non-profit organisation that sets and implements minimum quality assurance practices and standards for cork imports to South Africa. Every member’s incoming batches of cork are tested for TCA (cork taint) by an independent laboratory which also audits SACC members’ operations and premises to ensure adherence.

Winemakers can therefore buy corks from SACC members with much greater confidence. The Council also supplies bottlers with the latest technical data and checklists to ensure quality packaging practices and keeps them updated with the latest news about the natural cork industry via the council’s website.

The SACC’s registered Seal of Quality may only be used by members who comply with its strict standards.

Haughton ascribes much of their success to more accurate methods of testing for TCA. Cork quality control relied heavily on ‘sniff’ tests for the detection of TCA for a number of years but this changed when testing with Solid Phase Micro Extraction (SPME) using gas chromatography, became possible. This process can detect levels of TCA far below those that will spoil a good bottle of wine.  

Haughton also draws attention to the requirement that members only source corks from Celiege-accredited sources. Celiege is an international quality standards organisation. The SACC is also associated with Apcor in Portugal, which is the world’s primary cork exporting country.

The SACC’s work is organised in three committees:
• A Steering committee to carry out its directives and objectives;
• A Communications committee to inform and educate audiences about natural cork and assist interested parties;
• A Technical committee to collect and evaluate scientific information on natural cork and to offer advice and training.

Two independent members – Dr Ockert Augustyn of Nietvoorbij and winemaker Francois Naudé - represent the wine industry on the Steering committee.

Haughton is upbeat about the cork industry’s future, as he predicts zero tolerance of TCA. Once this happens, the main platform for the protagonists of alternative closures will collapse.

“At the moment alternative closures are substantially cheaper than cork, offering producers and retailers larger profits. This serves as a strong motivation to move to alternative closures while leaving consumers under the impression that the change is only due to cork taint. Our aim is to eliminate cork taint and to take this argument away from them!”

“All alternative closures have specific inherent problems associated with them. Numerous consumer research projects have indicated that the cork stopper is still by far the closure most preferred by wine consumers world wide and the SACC believes that cork will retain its dominant position as the closure of choice, especially for premium wines;” Haughton concluded.

Members of the South African Cork Council: African Cork Suppliers, Amorim, Columbit Colcork, Cork Supply South Africa, Juvenal South Africa, Martinese SA, Reynolds & Rocha, Vinocor, Wynland Voorsieners (Gültig), SA Xiberta Corks.

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