According to recent research commissioned on behalf of The Portuguese Cork Association (APCOR), cork closures continue to be the market leader for the premium wine market in the US, highlighted by significant growth in both sales and market share over the past decade. Between 2010 and 2020, case sales of cork finished wines among the top 100 premium brands increased 97 percent, compared to 6 percent for alternative closures, according to Nielsen. During the last ten years, market share of premium cork finished wines jumped from 47 percent to 67.6 percent.
The latest Nielsen yearly data of the Top 100 Premium Brands from the period ending December 26, 2020 showed that US wine consumers held a strong preference for natural cork when it came to buying premium domestic wines (defined as wine priced at $6 or more per bottle), with the median price of cork finished wines sitting $3.48 higher than those finished with alternative closures (an advantage of roughly 32 percent). By the end of 2020, the Top 100 Premium Brands sold in the US included nearly 72 percent sealed with cork. Cork finished wines led alternatives in every price category, particularly in wines that were priced above $10 per bottle, with cork used by 90 percent of domestic wines over $20.
As a renewable and natural product, cork is harvested without damaging or cutting down the trees, which live for 200 years or longer. During its lifetime a cork oak tree can absorb 20 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere while producing up to 65,000 corks. Through sustainable harvesting, the cork industry is helping to fight climate change by preserving Europe’s largest oak forests from deforestation, while also providing high paying jobs for agricultural farmers.
“Given the incredible natural properties of cork, it makes sense that the majority of the premium wines in the United States are sealed with cork,” says Carlos de Jesus, Operational Director of the InterCork program of APCOR. “Its lightness, elasticity, carbon sequestration, and ability to provide consistent oxygen transfer to help with the aging process, are all part of cork’s unique combination of characteristics that make it unlike any other material on the market.”
For nearly two decades, APCOR has been at the forefront of promotional efforts advocating on behalf of natural cork closures and the use of cork in everyday products. It is the cork industry, through its products, that makes the cork oak ecosystem viable, contributing to the maintenance of forests and the populations that depend on them.