At risk are ancient cork oak forests - one of the most important bio-gems in the world; a top ten global biodiversity hotspot; endangered species; centuries-old traditions; skilled workers. And, for millions of wine drinkers, the soul of the wine itself.
We are talking of course about natural cork.
Over the past 15 years, the rise of screw caps and plastic stoppers has meant that natural cork is under threat. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) if this trend continues, three quarters of the Western Mediterranean's cork oak forests could be lost within the next ten to fifteen years.
How can I help?
By taking these small steps, you are helping to support natural cork:
If natural cork is no longer used in wine, this flow of revenue would stop supporting these rural communities, forest workers and property owners therefore risking the balance that has kept this bio-gem alive for so long.
We've highlighted the top ten reasons to choose wine with a natural cork stopper over artificial closures:
Natural cork is a truly sustainable product - 100% natural, renewable and recyclable.
Not a single tree is felled in the production of cork stoppers. In fact, the bark of the cork oak tree is harvested after 25 years and then once every nine years thereafter. The sustainability of cork closure production has been recognised by leading NGOs and auditing firms around the world, even having achieved accreditation from the Forestry Stewardship Council, providing independent reassurance that forests are responsibly managed to guarantee the long term protection of delicate ecosystems and habitats.
Literally all of the cork bark is used in the production of cork. Cork waste generated in the production process is granulated and returned into the process to make more corks. Even the fine particles of cork dust are collected and used as fuel to heat the factory boilers.
Analysis by PwC in 2008 found that the production of some alternative stoppers emits as much as 24 times more CO2 than the production of cork stoppers.
Overall, the analysis found that when comparing the total lifecycle environmental impact across all closure types, from production through to disposal, cork stoppers performed best. Artificial stoppers performed badly against cork stoppers in terms of non-renewable energy consumption, emission of greenhouse effect gases, contribution to atmospheric acidification, contribution to the formation of photochemical oxidants, contribution to the eutrophication of surface water and total production of solid waste.
Natural cork actively helps to prevent global warming with cork oak trees absorbing over 10 million tonnes of CO2 each year.
The cork forests are home to 24 species of reptiles and amphibians, 100 bird species and 37 mammal species, some of which are endangered. Per one thousand square metres of cork forest, there are approximately 135 species of plant and many of these species have aromatic, culinary or medicinal uses.
Letting wine breathe and mature naturally is vital to ensure the final taste and experience is the best it can be, as intended by the winemaker. Cork closures provide the perfect balance of letting in a micro-amount of oxygen sufficient to enable the wine to develop and mature. Artificial stoppers oscillate between letting too much air into the bottle, leading to oxidation (as in the case of plastic stoppers) and screw caps have been identified as being too tight a seal, letting in too little oxygen and causing reduced flavours in the wine.
Cork is a "natural born sealer". Its natural elasticity, impermeability, moisture resistance as well as its insulation properties and lightness of weight, make it a perfect material to seal wine which can be enjoyed for years.
In 1870 The French Benedictine monk, Dom Pierre Pérignon, was trying to find a new sealing solution to replace using wooden bungs wrapped in hemp to seal bottles of his sparkling wine (Champagne). In 1680, he successfully used cork. Since then the finest wines and champagne houses have continued to trust in natural cork. If it's good enough for the best, why settle for anything less?
You've finished a bottle of cork closed wine...
What happens to the natural cork when it is recycled?
As Royal Wedding fever sweeps the nation, join the celebrations for the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton by cracking a bottle of the finest Champagne. New Pop'n'Fizz is our free, simple and fun app which lets you pop a cork to the happy couple without ever even having to buy a bottle.
Simply ease open the bottle by wiggling and inching the cork with your thumb and await the celebratory pop of the natural cork, accompanied by bubbles and explosive fizz! Pop to the Royal couple, pop to yourself or pop to friends - it's cork, it's natural and it's made for popping.
Apple iPhone users can find the app on the app store, while Android users with HTC, Palm Pre or Nokia devices can find the app on the Android Marketplace:
Natural cork in your wine bottle does more than just preserve and improve the quality and character of your wine. It preserves a centuries-long way of life in the rural communities of the Mediterranean cork oak forests, its incredible wildlife as well as the planet by absorbing CO2.
On the other hand artificial plastic stoppers or screw caps use at least five times more energy per tonne to produce, before millions of them potentially end up in our landfills and oceans.
It seems like a little thing, but demanding natural cork is something we can all do. Natural cork is the environmental choice. Support natural cork TODAY by signing this pledge
I, the undersigned, pledge to choose more wines which use natural cork. I recognise that artificial wine stoppers use at least five times more energy per tonne to produce, before millions of them potentially end up in our oceans and landfills. I also recognise that it's hard for me to tell which wines use natural cork and I want retailers, wine producers and cork producers to do more to help me choose it. It's time for wine to get back to its roots.
Why nothing beats the pop of a natural cork, by Cate Devine of the Glasgow Herald
Have you recently bought wine with an artificial plastic stopper or an aluminium screw cap? Or do you know a winery or retailer that uses 100% natural cork? Let other cork lovers know about it.