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100% Cork

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A seemingly small decision about what wine to drink can have considerable consequences socially and environmentally

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:

  • Start thinking about the stopper in your wine.
  • Ask your wine merchant / supermarket to highlight which wines use natural cork.
  • Ask your local council if you can recycle cork, aluminium and plastic stoppers.
  • Reuse your old natural corks. For example, make a cork pinboard for your kitchen wall.
  • Sign our pledge below.

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Approximately 70% of the cork industry's revenue comes from wine stoppers.

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:

1. 100% Natural

Natural cork is a truly sustainable product - 100% natural, renewable and recyclable.

2. Working with nature, not destroying it

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.

3. Zero Waste

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.

4. Less Greenhouse gas emissions

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.

5. Environmentally Unbeatable

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.

6. Fighting Global Warming

Natural cork actively helps to prevent global warming with cork oak trees absorbing over 10 million tonnes of CO2 each year.

7. Protecting Delicate Ecosystems

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.

8. A more Mature Taste

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.

9. A Natural Born Sealer

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.

10. Why settle for second best?

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?


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  • Cork is a natural product from the bark of the cork oak tree, Quercus Suber L.
  • Not a single tree is felled in the production of cork stoppers.
  • The use of cork dates back to the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks, but the father of cork is Dom Pérignon who started using cork to seal his sparkling wine bottles in the mid-1600s. Pérignon was a French Abbot residing at the Hautvillers monastery who was trying to find a new sealing solution to replace using wooden bungs wrapped in hemp to seal bottles. His innovation launched a new industry which today employs 100,000 people in the Mediterranean.
  • Large scale cork production was first recorded in Portugal in 1700.
  • Today, the majority of the global production of natural cork is based in the Mediterranean region, principally growing in the sunny south of Portugal (52.5% of world's production), Spain, France and North Africa.
  • Natural cork harvesting, whereby the bark is stripped from the cork tree, begins usually when a tree is at least 25 years of age. The tree is harvested on a nine year cycle for approximately 200 years.
  • The natural cork used in cork closures is only available after the third cycle of harvesting, typically when the tree is almost 45 years old.
  • A tree that is 80 years old can produce 40-60kgs of natural cork when harvested.
  • The average cork oak tree produces one tonne of raw cork which equates to 65,000 stoppers.
  • 340,000 tonnes of natural cork stoppers are produced each year, equating to the weight of approximately 44,000 elephants
  • Natural cork is made of very small cells: 750 million per cork stopper. This characteristic makes natural cork the most effective material for closing bottles as it is light, elastic, resistant, impermeable and easy to remove. Despite advances in technology, man has yet to be able to duplicate this incredibly complex structure.
  • One particular tree in Portugal, known as the 'Whistler Tree' because of the many singing birds attracted to it, is said to be 212 years old. It is estimated that this tree produced 1,000,000 natural corks by the end of the year 2000.
  • 12 billion natural cork closures are produced each year which, if joined end to end, would circumnavigate the world nearly 11 times over.
  • 340,000 tonnes of natural cork stoppers are produced each year, equating to the weight of approximately 44,000 elephants.
  • A natural cork is able to maintain its full sealing capacity for more than 100 years owing to its elasticity and the waxes and fatty acids in its composition.

You've finished a bottle of cork closed wine...
now what?

  • Natural cork is one of the few forms of packaging that is environmentally friendly.
  • Unfortunately, while natural cork is 100% recyclable, the UK is yet to implement a large scale recycling programme, which has been successful in the USA and Australia.
  • However some retailers are leading the way; a recycling collection and cork oak replanting scheme exists through Laithwaites Wine, the world's largest independent wine retailer. You can also bring your cork for recycling at some Whole Food outlets.
  • The I Love Natural Cork campaign is working to highlight the benefits of cork recycling to retailers in the UK with the aim that further schemes are put in place.
  • To find your nearest Laithwaites Wine store please visit their website: www.laithwaites.co.uk

What happens to the natural cork when it is recycled?

  • After collection, corks are sorted, foreign debris removed and then granulated and sent to manufacturers - who use recycled cork in a variety of products such as memo boards, placemats, coasters, floor tiles, boat decking and inners for cricket and hockey balls!

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Pop a cork for the Royal Wedding with new Pop'n'Fizz App

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.

Download Now!

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:

Crack open a bottle with every call

Can't get enough of the Pop'n'Fizz app? Why not enjoy the celebratory sound of a popping champagne bottle with every incoming call you receive. To download the free Pop'n'Fizz ringtone, click here:

Please drink responsibly: www.drinkaware.co.uk Please note: you must be of over your country's legal age to purchase or consume alcohol to download this application.

Natural cork is truly sustainable - 100% natural, renewable and biodegradable

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

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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.

By pledging your support to natural cork, you will be automatically entered into a competition to win a trip to the Portuguese cork oak forests during the cork harvest in 2011.

Latest News

Monday, 27th June 2011

The Herald, Saturday 25 June

Why nothing beats the pop of a natural cork, by Cate Devine of the Glasgow Herald

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Facebook

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.

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