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OIV boost for cork industry

Posted in - Blog Posts & closures on December 8th 2011 0 Comments

Screwcap advocates will be gnashing their teeth after the latest OIV resolution gave natural cork a boost.

The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) has passed a resolution recognising the role of natural cork closures in reducing greenhouse gases.

The cork sector has been banging the green drum for some time. In 2007, the WWF (the wildlife guys not the wrestlers) called on the wine industry to back cork to save the 2.7 million hectares of cork oak forests located in the Mediterranean basin. It said the survival of these cork forest rested largely upon the market for cork stoppers, which accounts for 30% of the volume harvested but 70% of the total cork market value.

It championed cork’s cause highlighting 100,000 people rely on cork oak forests for their survival, as do 13,000 plant species and the entire European population of common cranes and many other birds and animals. Cork bashers were less than impressed by what they saw as a desperate attempt to win us over with green wash.

Now, the OIV has recognised the positive impact of cork stoppers in the calculation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It said, “Cork closures represent a specificity of the wine sector and its use has an important impact in the sustainable conservation of forest. Because of this important role, carbon balance of corks may be taken into account when applying the EP (Enterprise Protocol).

“When accounting the GHG emissions related to natural cork closures, the cork production system should be considered from a holistic approach. The final figures of the GHG emissions due to the cork production should consider the managed forest it comes from and its carbon sink effect.”

Cork is a natural product and yes, trees are good for the ecosystem but we must not be blinded by environmental matters – performance of a closure must take first place.  While the incidence of TCA has been falling in since the implementation of the International Code of Cork Stopper Manufacturers (ICCSM), there is still the carbon cost of tainted bottles – produced, bottled and shipped across the world only to be poured down the sink by a disappointed customer. It is estimated 5% of wines bottled under natural cork suffer from TCA.

Let’s not forget that other closures aren’t without their problems: The 2010 International Wine Challenge found 5.6% of entries were faulty: oxidation accounted for 28% of these problems, sulphides 26.7%, while cork taint was down at 20%, and brettanomyces a horse manure-like splash behind with 12.8%.

While cork may have gained the environmental moral high ground this time, the debate will continue to run and run…

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