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Wines & Vines

Sabate – french cork producer

Sabate – french cork producer – Company Profile

Philip E. Hiaring

Last December, after Sitevinitech in Bordeaux, Wines & Vines headed south to visit Fortant de France in Sete (May, 1999) and re-visit Sabate, France’s only cork producer and the producer of the Altec[R] stopper at Ceret near the Spanish border.

1992, W&V went to the manufacturer, also after Sitevinitech, but that was two years before the new product, a combination of suberin in cork and cells manufactured by Expancel, Akzo Nobel, exclusively for Sabate, made its debut.

Among prominent French producers using the stopper are Chateau Poujeux, Fortant de France and Georges Duboeuf. Among the U.S. producers using it are B.R. Cohn, David Bruce and Niebaum-Coppola in California, Columbia Winery in Washington State, Rex Hill in Oregon and St. James in Missouri. To hear some winemakers talk, the stopper isn’t just for early consumption wines.

The French company was founded in 1939 by Modest Sabate, a Catalonian journalist who incurred the ire of Francisco Franco. Francois Sabate opened the U.S. subsidiary in San Francisco in 1995.

Basically, to make the closure cuttings from the punchings of quality corks, mainly from Spain, are crushed to sizes less than 1 min. Shakers then separate suberin (low density) particles from lignin (high density) particles; only suberin particles are used.

Then synthetic cells are mixed with the cork particles and a polyurethane binder is added to keep the cells together.

This mixture is heated in “single individual matrices,” per the technical information supplied by the company to cause “expansion of the microspheres and the cross-linking of the binding agent.”

Corks then are machined and washed in hydrogen peroxide, a practice the company patented in 1985. Corks are custom fire-branded then vacuum and SO2 packed in poly bags.

Lab tests are conducted from start to finish.

Finally, a silicon elastometer surface coating is applied to ensure smooth bottle insertion, and easy user extraction.

At my visit, the company was adding some 3,000 square meters for a total of 18,000 square meters. Whereas the first Altec equipment arrived in 1995, the company was awaiting arrival of a sixth. Production of the new stopper is 400,000 per day, with production going 24 hours per day. Since half the four million corks the company peroxide-washes each day are Altecs, you get the idea the market for such items is growing.

COPYRIGHT 1999 Hiaring Company

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group