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Murray Almond's "From the Left Island"
Support For Cork Plummets according to Cork Industry Surveys
15 September 2002

APCOR, the consortium of Portuguese Cork Growers and Manufacturers, has recently released the results of a recent survey in relation to Cork.

This report on APCOR's Corkmaster site gives a very positive spin on the results. So positive to this writer that it can only be seen as misleading.

However the new results can be compared to the results in the previous report, also developed and commissioned by APCOR and published in March 2002.

Of the results published it shows that support for cork as the preferred seal for wine has fallen from 75% to 56% while support for plastic stoppers has doubled from 9% to 18%.

This is in only 5 months despite a multi million dollar marketing campaign by APCOR with full colour magazine advertisements, hosted tours to Portugal and continual press releases. It should also be noted that the second survey is from a far bigger sample, 4,000 against less than 600 in the March survey.

They've taken quite a spin on the results as well. In the summary at the link above they comment "25% of respondents think that screw caps are fine, especially for light or young wines". The problem here is that unless you see the question being asked, reporting a statement like that out of context only compounds the spin.

In their very narrow selection of responses to quote they note on one correspondent on screwcaps "It affects the taste! You wouldn't drink wine from a tin can, would you?" A fascinating response given that studies and tastes have shown that not to be the case, whereas the cork's influence on the taste of wine has been shown mainly in the negative context, time and again.

The latest results published on the APCOR website can only be seen as highly selective and therefore not results but marketing spin. My own 500 word response was not mentioned not were many other comments that I have been made aware of.

These are APCOR's own figures from their own surveys.

In March the UK wine journalist Jancis Robinson MW wrote "Well what do you know? An international survey of wine drinkers commissioned by the Portuguese Cork Association (APCOR), showed that 75 per cent of them expressed a preference for natural cork. According to Weber Shandwick, the PR agency acting for APCOR, 'just nine per cent [voted] for plastic stoppers. The preference was strongest in the US at 81 per cent, with 73 and 72 per cent respectively for the UK and Australia.' Frankly, I'm amazed that the proportions of respondents expressing a preference for real cork in a questionnaire commissioned by their producers were as low as they are. I would have thought that almost everyone would say that in an ideal world, yes they would prefer real cork."

This is before APCOR's multi million dollar marketing campaign and the latest results show a further decline. This to me shows that the wine market is not as sucked in as the marketers would have us believe.

Let's compare spin on opinion to reality for a second.

The 2000 Grosset Gaia, the premium red of Clare Valley producer Jeffrey Grosset, was made with a percentage bottled in screwcap. The wine closed with screwcaps sold out in a week, the same wine in corks took longer to move.

Tesco in the UK are putting French Beaujolais in screwcaps, German Rieslings are coming in screwcaps, Southcorp is bottling all 2002 aromatic whites in screwcaps, on top of the splendid wines from New Zealand and Australia being produced in this taint free and reliable seal. Meanwhile wine shows are increasingly recording the significant incidence of taint wines present in shows.

It's interesting that the pro-cork publicity comes from, and is hugely funded by, the cork growers. In contrast the pro-screwcap marketing, where it occurs, comes from the winemakers who actually make the wine for us to enjoy and put their own names, and reputations, on the line in producing the wines we buy.

Nevertheless I don't expect this will alter the spin, and the surveys, being released by APCOR to support their stand. Perhaps their concentration should be on research and development with definable results rather than relying on mere spin.

From the Left Island


© Murray Almond
15 September 2002

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