A glass act

As premiumisation continues to be a trend in wine markets globally, there is growing demand for packaging products that can lift product appeal and help bottles stand out from their competitors. One unique approach is sourced from a manufacturer using a material for closures not generally associated with wine bottles at all.

The region of Bohemia, located in the Czech Republic near the German and Polish borders, is famously known for its luxury glass and crystal products made in a relatively small area known as ‘Crystal Valley’. While the area’s manufacturers are best known for high-end glassware and jewellery, one producer has become ensconced as a supplier of glass closures for wine bottles.

Radan Haiblik, from Vinolok, says that glass had long been used to close bottles but that historically the material didn’t allow for effective sealing. This was far from ideal for the packaging of wines that require hermetic conditions to maintain product quality and integrity. Haiblilk explained that this was eventually overcome by adding sealing rings using newly available materials.

Although the product has been available for nearly two decades, demand for it has been growing quickly as more producers embrace more alternative solutions for packaging.

“It was first introduced in 2003. Basically, the idea behind this closure was to offer an alternative material for wines because at that time, people were complaining about TCA and the problems associated with spoiled wines. So there was always a though about alternative materials for winemakers and [our] idea was glass,” Haiblik said.

He explained that the glass product was initially started purely as a technical closure for wine, but under the influence of the local Bohemian jewellery industry, design too became a focus of the product and the bottles it would fit.

Vinolok sales director Radan Haiblik

“Because we are from the jewellery industry – for example, Swarovski comes from our town before they moved to Austria some time ago – we use a lot of techniques and we developed also the design side of the closure.”

We started to play with the colours, with the shapes, different techniques for how to decorate a closure and this has become very popular.

Radan Haiblik


Image: Vinolok glass closures have being utilised to create unique designs for wine and spirits bottles.

“We started to play with the colours, with the shapes, different techniques for how to decorate a closure and this has become very popular.”

He said although the majority of Vinolok products are still made for the global wine industry, there’s been rapid recent expansion also into the spirits category, which he says has a greater focus on adopting new packaging.

The products are currently sold to producers in around 60 countries.

“France is for us very important,” Haiblik said, “But also other markets including Australia, Italy, Spain and in North America.”

He noted that the Australian market had been important for the growth of the product and that comparative testing has been undertaken by the Australian Wine Research Institute to measure its technical attributes.

Comparative tests

“We have five years of comparative tests and the comparison is always between screwcaps, Vinolok and natural cork.”

Haiblik proudly proclaims that these official results have shown the product in a positive light for the packaging of wine, meaning that producers are choosing it not only for its aesthetic appeal but for its technical properties.

“It’s OTR (oxygen transmission rate) is somewhere between a screwcap and natural cork; it has more micro-oxygenation than a screwcap but less than cork. So it’s basically 1.3 milligrams per year which is a good feature because it keeps primary tones for longer. At the same time the wine can develop.

“Because it has good OTR properties and it’s also very [stable], after 10 years you can open a case of wines and each one would be the same, so that’s great.”

Haiblik visited Australia last year and reveals that one of the product’s “best references” is South Australian producer Henschke, which was one of the very first customers for the glass product in 2004. Henschke has utilised the Vinolok closure for its red wines, such as Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, and has used it to seal bottles of its icon wine Hill of Grace.

Ultimately, Haiblik says that the unique attributes of his product is helping many producers with the premiumisation of their products and to enhance product differentiation in crowded markets.

“If somebody wants to be different, it they want to work with a special design, then that’s when our product comes into place,” he said.