In 1999, Marc Noël and his father, Gert, introduced the first coextruded, synthetic wine closure to the market, called Nomacorc. Noël currently serves as founder and chairman of Vinventions, the parent company of Nomacorc and one of the world’s leading suppliers of wine closures; as of 2018, at least 2.8 billion bottles of wine have been sealed with his products. Today, Nomacorc is Vinventions’ largest brand of closure solutions, offering sustainable, plant-based closures to winemakers worldwide.
What was the inspiration for the first Nomacorc product?
My father founded a company in 1950 for transformation-extrusion of plastic materials into all types of applications. He was also a very avid wine lover and was more and more frustrated with wines contaminated with trichloroanisole [TCA] from cork closures. He said, “We’re going to solve this.” He started what he called Project Broomstick, trying to make wine closures out of co extruded plastic material. He asked me to join him, and I agreed very quickly. We built what we called Nomacorc.
So wines sealed with Nomacorcs aren’t vulnerable to cork taint. Are there other differences between Nomacorcs and natural corks?
What we found once we solved the TCA issue was another great benefit, which was the consistency for the production line. The first closure was exactly the same in all regards to the millions of other closures wineries would be using. I exaggerate a little here, but every single natural cork has a different oxygen transfer rate because they all have a cell structure made by nature. With Nomacorcs, because of our coextrusion process, they are all exactly the same, giving winemakers and consumers a higher level of consistency across bottles.
Vinventions offers other closure products, from screwcaps to high-end natural corks and micro-agglomerative corks. What is the connective thread?
There is no one solution for all wines. The big opportunity and liability a closure supplier has to the world is that this little thing that costs sometimes ten cents or twenty cents can protect a five, ten, or hundred-dollar bottle of wine. In the end it’s this little closure that has the responsibility to make sure the wine is as the winemaker intended. Through technology, we ensure that in all of our products. We also guarantee all of our closures—even our natural corks—to be TCA-free.
Vinventions has put an emphasis on sustainability. How does it influence your products?
We feel we have an absolute responsibility to make sure we are a driver in making wine closure products much more sustainable. For example, our Nomacorc Green Line is 100% based on sustainable materials derived from sugarcane. The result is a closure from a natural product that also looks very much like a natural cork. Sugarcane also consumes carbon dioxide. That, along with our innovative manufacturing processes, allow some of these products to have a zero-carbon footprint.
And because sugarcane consumes carbon dioxide, Nomacorc products have a zero carbon footprint. That is a big difference compared to other closures, including natural corks and screwcaps, where production results in a positive carbon footprint.
What are you working on now?
We’re currently doing tests on polymerization of waste from the winemaking process, the skins and the pits in the grapes that are discarded. There are mountains of such waste in every region where wine is being made. Just like we do with sugarcane with some of our Nomacorcs, we are trying to bring that waste back into our production process to develop a closure. That would be phenomenal circular sustainability. It could make a real difference to the planet.