Interview with David Bruce Guimaraens
Cork is part of the ageing process of wine
David Bruce Guimaraens is, to a large degree, responsible for the global success of young ‘Vintage Ports’ in the last years. A director of the Taylor-Fonseca Group, he was the winemaker responsible for the celebrated Fonseca 1994 and Taylor’s 1994, both awarded with 100 points by the magazineWine Spectator.
Those who know David Bruce Guimaraens are not surprised by his success. In spite of his youth, David has a very unusual background, style and enthusiasm. After achieving a degree in Applied Science in Oenology at Roseworthy University, in Australia, he returned to Portugal in the early 1990s with two intriguing obsessions in connection with Port Wine: cork stoppers and brandy. He himself admits that “when I become interested in something – in this case cork stoppers – I will pursue it to the smallest detail.”
David sees a large degree of similarity between the cork and Port Wine sectors, “both started more as merchants than as producers, establishing their operations at a distance from production. In the case of Port Wine, they bought the grapes from the Douro valley and produced the wine in Vila Nova de Gaia; the cork manufacturing companies purchased the raw material from the Alentejo and produced cork stoppers in Santa Maria da Feira. Both have a strong component of tradition; they started operating as intermediaries and they have their operation centres in Portugal – which, for me, is a great advantage.”
Having visited Australia, where scientific work on stoppers was a global benchmark, David faced up to the current reality in Portugal: “The word ‘quality’ applied to corks was exclusively relevant to their external appearance; it did not address the possible implications regarding the taste of the wine. The same was true in our company (Taylor’s Group) where, uniquely, sensorial analysis was carried out to detect possible mould presence. Aided by a technician from our specialized Microbiology Laboratory, we developed a program with two components: carrying out sensorial analysis and microbiological analysis. In my view, the quality of the cork has more to do with the raw material and less with commercial strategy.”
Therefore it is not surprising that David Guimaraens dedicates a large part of his time and effort to the world of cork. He personally chooses his suppliers and workis closely with them, specifying quantities and harvest dates, specifically with regard to capsulated corks which represent 98% of his supply – more than 8 million units per year. For his top-of-the-range wines, the Vintages, David does not consider any other type of stopper than cork: “The cork stopper is part of the aging process of the wine – and a Vintage has to age.”
David is of the opinion that the world of cork, as well as the world of Port Wine, has undergone an extraordinary development in the last five years, during which much has been achieved. He comments: “The problem is that today there is a lack of perspective and time to reflect on the great advances, in the cork stopper as well as wines yet to be drunk. If this pace continues, I have no doubt that the situation will improve enormously in the next years; but there needs to be greater cooperation between the cork sector and the producers of corks.”
David is convinced that there is actually a yearly oscillation in cork quality, as there is with grape harvests, according to internal studies he has carried out, the results of which he has presented to experts in the cork industry.
Summarising, David expresses a particular wish: “Portugal should revive the Junta Nacional da Cortiça (National Cork Commission), to protect the cork oak tree in the same way the Instituto do Vinho do Porto (Port Wine Institute) cares about its raw material.”
It should be clarified that today, although the above mentioned Commission does not exist, the Portuguese Government and various state entities – for example, the Direcção Geral das Florestas (National Forest Authority) – actively protect the cork oak forest.
This interview with David Bruce Guimaraens was conducted by
Alfredo Hervías y Mendizábal.