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NAPA -- The newly established U.S. distributor for the longstanding French natural cork producer The Gabriel Group has added aluminum screw caps to its product portfolio via an importation agreement with one of India's largest producers of the closures.

Gabriel Cork America inked an exclusive distribution agreement with Classic Bottle Caps Private Ltd. of New Delhi to sell the company's wine-oriented Classicwin screw cap closure and other types of caps in North America, according to Pedro Teixeira, chief executive officer of the Napa-based distributor.

"I'm convinced that in the next three to five years, just about every white wine will be closed with a screw cap," he said.

That's saying something from a fifth-generation family business that has been supplying high-end natural cork closures in Europe for 142 years. The family entered the U.S. wine market in April 2009 with the launch of Gabriel Cork America in a 12,500-square-foot facility in south Napa.

"I consider that we're in the closure business, and if a client wants to use screw caps, what the client wants the client gets," Mr. Teixeira said.

Founded more than 20 years ago, Classic Bottle Caps has become a major supplier of twist-off closures in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, including the brands Smirnoff and Montana. The latter two markets have been world-leading adopters of aluminum caps for wines.

The wine caps have two options of seal inserts, based on winemaking needs.

The addition of the Classic Bottle Caps closures could open up sales in markets other than the wine business, according to Mr. Teixeira. That includes spirits, olive oil and pharmaceuticals.

The company is looking to bring on a screw cap-specific salesperson. The operation in Napa currently employs four and has a quality-control team with training at Gabriel’s production plant in Portugal. The distributor also will be hiring more cork salespeople and office staff.

The parent company employs 160.

Gabriel puts samples of its cork-based stoppers through independent testing in solid-phase microextraction gas chromography and mass spectrometry equipment before the stoppers are packaged for shipping from Portugal and after they arrive in Napa. The product line also includes colmated corks, agglomerated corks  called Francork, 1+1 “technical” cork stoppers and bar-top corks.

The Napa facility has a laboratory as well as finishing options such as fire and ink branding.

For the smaller orders of twist-off closures, Gabriel will be adding equipment in Napa to decorate the top of the caps and will stock standard collar colors for quick-turnaround orders. Other decoration options are to include printing on the sides of the long capsule-like cap skirt as well as embossing and debossing.

Expanding to the U.S. at a time when there have been troubled cork producers, such as Portugal-based Vinocor’s bankruptcy last year, can make strategic sense, according to Mr. Teixeira.

“Times of crisis are times of opportunity,” he said. “Wineries are looking for new suppliers because they want to save money. When times are good, wineries are OK with their current suppliers. It allows a new player to get into the game faster.”

For more information, call Sales Manager Robert Jones at 707-259-1100, or visit www.gabrielcorkamerica.com.