Cork is one of my favorite subjects. I got a recent email about it, from Jeff Lloyd, of Sitrick And Company in Los Angeles:

By way of introduction, we are working with the Portuguese Cork Association (APCOR) to help communicate the advantages that cork stoppers have over artificial closures. Please check out our Web site for additional information on our campaign.

He actually opened with this paragraph:

Wine & Spirits’ 25th Annual Survey of the Top 50 Restaurant Wine Brands asked wine directors at 218 restaurants to name their 10 best-selling wines. Their responses were compiled into a list of the Top 50 Restaurant Brands. Results were presented for 2013 and for the previous 10 years. The results for 2013 by closure type showed that brands primarily finished with cork accounted for 90 percent of the Top 50 Restaurant Brands, up 21 percent, as compared to ten years ago. Brands primarily finished with screw caps showed a 39 percent decline and brands using synthetic closures were down by 70 percent, as reported by wine directors.

Yeah… I love cork. I know there are all sorts of companies to deliver plastic to you, metal twist off caps, etc.. But, the process, the aromas, the aesthetics of using something natural, something coming from mostly Portugal, and the improvements to not allow TCA (Trichloroanisole) creep into this earthy product used to “put a cork in it” for wine bottles… I’m a huge fan.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to visit Portugal, I don’t have to even explain the symbiosis in those neighborhoods of grape vines, olive trees, and sheep meandering within it all eating grasses and leaving nitrogenous waste as a by product… And across the highway are the cork trees and the famous feral black pigs eating acorns in an oak (Quercus suber) forest.

For those of you who haven’t been there yet, it’s a fascinating day trip.

How it all works for Cork (Quercus suber)

  • After an oak tree reaches 25 years of age, it can be stripped of its cork bark layer.
  • They’re harvested every nine to 12 years
    • It’s like sheering a sheep.
  • The tree is marked with the year of harvest.
    • Tree harvesters wait before harvesting that tree again for the nine to 12 years.
  • A single cork oak is capable of living up to 200 years
    • This means that it can be harvested at least 16 times over its lifetime.

Did you know even that it’s an oak tree that has this bark? From the mighty oak, comes the cork, besides the nuts.

Here’s what the 100 Percent Cork people have to say about using corks.

That natural cork in your wine bottle does more than just preserve the quality and character of your wine. It preserves old-growth cork oak forests and a centuries-long way of life through sustainable harvesting of the bark, and helps preserve the planet by naturally absorbing carbon, the greenhouse gas responsible for climate change.

So, go ahead and tell me all the things you want to about plastic and metal closures…  I’m a tree-hugger, you’re not going to convince me that the chemicals used in making plastic closures and/or metal closures are the way to go… Not when we see the polar ice caps slipping away. I want my children and grandchildren to still have a breathable planet that’s not riddled with wild weather. Sometimes, being natural is not only the way to go for the good of the planet, but it also has it’s benefits for quality of life in a simplistic, easy-going way… There’s very little of that these days. Yeah, pass the cork screw.

The following video features wine experts, whom you may recognize, if only through the names of their companies. Each one is endorsing cork, some of whom have used other closures, but are returning to cork:

  • Jim Bernau, fonder of Willamette Valley Vineyards, Willamette Valley OR
  • Richard Arrowwood, Winemaster at Amapola Creek Wine, Glen Ellen CA
  • Ed Sbragia, former head winemaker for Beringer Wines, founder of Sbragia wines, Sonoma CA
  • Steve Rued, winemaker Rutherford Wine Company, Napa CA

Companies, which are more sustainable, are returning to cork… For more than 2,000 years, this has been the sustainable way to go.