James Herwatt, CEO Cork Supply: Sustainability and Cost of TCA-Free Cork Key in Competitive Closure Market


After receiving a WINnovation Award for Cork Supply’s innovative DS100+ technology, a machine automated process that detects TCA down to 1 part per trillion, far below the human sensory threshold, Wine Industry Advisor asked CEO James Herwatt a few questions about innovation at Cork Supply and the future of the wine closure market.


Greg Hirson (Left), Cork Supply Director of Technical Services and Peter Hladun (right), Cork Supply Vice President of Operations accepts WINnovation Award on from George Christie (center), President of Wine Industry Network.

How do you see DS100+ technology impacting the cork closure market going forward?

At Cork Supply, our goal is to offer complete quality assurance to our customers. We introduced our innovative DS100 service in 2014 and followed up with the Bottle Buy Back Guarantee in 2015, ensuring that each of our natural corks delivers the ultimate sensory performance to every wine bottle. With DS100+, we’re now offering confidence in every cork by delivering the perfect TCA-free cork. The new automated system, DS100+, allows for 100% cork inspection with greater efficiency, resulting in the same TCA-free guarantee at a speed and volume that make the service available to a wider range of customers.


What will the significance of cork taint be in the future–will it be reduced to obscurity or continue to haunt wine?

Whenever you work with natural products you have the possibility of contaminate, but we like to believe we’re doing our part to reduce cork taint into obscurity by working to eliminate natural cork closures affected by TCA. At Cork Supply, we believe the perfect cork begins in the forest so we source only the finest quality cork wood that meets our rigid incoming production acceptance threshold for releasable TCA. Taking this initial step, combined with rigorous standards and an advanced technical laboratory that inspects, tests and analyzes every cork lot shipped from Portugal, provides the best quality, TCA-free corks in the industry.

What do you see as the big challenges or opportunities for wine closures today?

The closure industry continues to be highly competitive and at Cork Supply, we’re committed to providing our customers with the very best, premium quality closures. When we introduced our successful DS100 service in 2014, we understood that our biggest challenge would be bringing the cost down to make TCA-free cork available at a rate and value that would benefit a wide range of customers. We think we’ve accomplished that with DS100+, an automated version of DS100.

Creating wine closures with a focus on sustainability is also one of our top priorities. For example, we’ve partnered with Vinventions to create SÜBR, the first glue-free micro-agglomerate cork. SÜBR is a next generation wine bottle closure made of natural cork and biodegradable materials and will be available in 2017.


What do you do at Cork Supply to foster innovation?

Our dedicated quality control and research and development experts – 12% of our global team – continually explore state-of-the-art technologies to deliver the perfect cork to market and for more than three decades Cork Supply has been leading the industry in innovation. Since our founding in 1981, we’ve established groundbreaking quality assurance standards and methods in the laboratory, such as the use of Solid Phase Micro Extraction (SPME) to detect TCA as low as 1 part per trillion, the proprietary Innocork® TCA removal (volatile extraction) technology, and the first-ever guaranteed taint-free natural corks under the first-of-its kind “dry soak” system, DS100, to detect and eliminate corks with releasable TCA at levels far below the sensory threshold, and now, DS100+.

What role does customer and industry feedback play at Cork Supply?

Cork Supply verticalWe’re proud of the strong partnerships we maintain with our winery customers and we’re committed to being the wine industry’s most trusted and relied-upon cork supplier. Our goal is to raise the bar with innovation across our portfolio while maintaining quality control standards recognized as the best in the industry.

What’s the scope and scale of your business?

For more than three decades, the Cork Supply Group has been redefining quality through innovation, superior service and expertise. We offer premium closure products to the global wine and spirits industry, including natural corks, CS, Cuvée, technical corks and Talis bartops. In addition, the Group offers labels from the award-winning Studio Labels, as well as traditional handcrafted, custom-finished French and American oak barrels and Creative Oak alternatives from their state-of-the-art cooperage, Tonnellerie Ô.

Founded in 1981 by Jochen Michalski, the Cork Supply Group operates Lean and ISO-certified production facilities in all major wine regions throughout the world.