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Portugal,Wine

Putting a cork in it….

Putting a cork in it… is the way I prefer, quite honestly. Having read a story about cork in the Wall Street Journal called, “Plastic or real cork: Which is the better way to seal a wine bottle?” it got me thinking, and I became interested enough to actually sign up for being able to comment on their Website.

My comment was:

CORK: I’ll always choose natural over unnatural.

There’s something warm and aesthetic about cork, and it’s biodegradable.

Having traveled through the cork forests of Portugal, I know that taking cork from a tree is like sheering sheep. After harvest, the trees are marked with the year they were harvested, and allowed to grow more layers for the next nine years. (Imagine how tiny a cork would be if only one layer was allowed to grow before harvest.) It takes nine layers to return the cork’s depth to a point that will allow for the creation of more usable cork with depth for wine bottles.

If we have the ability to remain natural, what is the advantage for people and the environment to become unnatural?

In this picture of a cork tree, you can see that it was harvested in 2007. I took this in November 2009, and it was two years later, so you can barely see the date. It does continue to show in the bark, so cork harvesters know when the tree is ready once again.

I know that plastic, glass, and stelvin closures (twist offs) are alternative, and have created lots of jobs for lots of people, but I’m still an old hippie, as my friend the Cosmic Muffin used to call me. Old hippies love things from the earth, crafted by the hands of men and women… Pottery, jewelry, arts and crafts, and cork closures.

What’s very interesting to me is in my Q&A sessions with wine writers. I ask this question,

What’s your favorite innovation in the wine industry over the past few years?

I’m willing to bet, without having to go back and read each answer, that 95 percent of the respondents answer that screw tops are the innovation that they most enjoy. I might even answer that one with the same answer, but I still love cork, too… most especially now that I’ve seen cork trees first hand, and stopped at a cork yard to take pictures of harvest. I now have a deeper appreciation of cork’s unique attributes.

In the WSJ story’s comments, of the 11 comments only one person wasn’t familiar with cork, and thought it might hurt the trees to harvest from them. Once she had it explained that it’s a natural process, she went in the direction of cork.

Madalena Santos wrote, “I just want to mention four advantages of the Cork:

  1. The wine really needs to breathe
  2. Cork is 100% recyclable and the plastic (zero)
  3. Energy consumption of the plastic products cycle is much bigger
  4. Plastic is not a natural product (see what happened in supermarkets – they have eliminated plastic bags because they were a threat to the environment)

Also, excellent links were given by people supporting cork:

Save Miguel! Rob Schneider finds Miguel! Very cute and worth watching…

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2 Responses to “Putting a cork in it….”

  1. 4 misconceptions published above, sorry Madalena Santos but you are misinformed.
    1. Wine does not need to breathe until the bottle is opened. If wine actually breathed through the cork most wines would be spoiled by oxidation within a short period of time. Cork is valued as a wine closure because it does not permit ingress of oxygen.
    2. Plastic is 100% recyclable. Cork cannot be used again for a wine closure. It must be recycled into other products. Polymers can be recycled into closures or many other products.
    3. Energy consumption is only bigger in plastic if you only consider production cycle. If you look at the entire picture you will see natural cork requires more labor to create and to maintain as humidification and sulfur treatments are required to maintain cork inventories. Not so for plastics.
    4. Plastic bags have nothing in common with modern alternative plastic/polymer wine closures. These closures are 100% recyclable. The basic material is completely different and the volumes of production are far less than the bags she is so afraid of.
    But the unmentioned argument for alternative closures is cork taint. Who would continue to buy a product that has a built in failure rate of 2 to 5%?
    Romance and tradition are fine but give me a sound wine drinking experience every time. Unfortunately cork cannot guarantee that.

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    Just for a level playing field, Zork has a veste4d interest in synthetics, marc.

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