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St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

Cork it: Many Bay Area wine producers are switching back to natural cork

May 29, 2015
St. Francis Winery & Vineyard

Christopher Silva, a fifth-generation Sonoma County native, is big on sustainable agriculture and “green” alternatives. So back in 2013, he decided to stop using synthetic wine bottle closures on virtually all of his company’s wines and return to the natural solution: Cork.

Nationally, Nielsen data shows that over the last five years cork closures have accounted for most of the growth among the top 100 premium wine brands. As a result, wines with cork closures had 59 percent of the market for those wines as of May 1, 2015, compared to just 50 percent five years earlier.

(St. Francis has the) Sonoma County brand, which includes chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and “old vines” zinfandel. St. Francis also sells higher-end reserve wines that retail for $90 to $110 in restaurants.

All but sauvignon blanc and small batches of other varietals now come topped with natural cork, after two decades of using synthetic substitutes. The reasons: cork is better longer term for preserving quality, appeals to customers who perceive it as higher quality, and is a far more sustainable product. Cork trees can live hundreds of years, and are harvested once every eight or nine years — a far healthier approach environmentally than the other options.

By Chris Rauber
San Francisco Business Times

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