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11.29.2008

Put a Cork in it: Screwcap Wine Closures Are Not Endangering Animals!

Why do I feel like the wine media watchdog these days? Maybe the holiday spirit brings out the misinformation campaigns like no other time of the year. Or perhaps journalists are getting lazy and are scrounging for material that they can recycle out of press releases they have stuffed in the bottom drawers of their desks.

So what's the rant about? Today's piece of crap in the Telegraph, entitled "Screw Cap Wine Bottles Threaten Rare Species." The occasion for repeating this completely asinine claim that somehow if we don't stop using screwcaps all those delicate ecosystems of the cork forests will disappear appears to be an upcoming BBC documentary series that repeats the same idiotic logic.

I have no basis for alleging that this whole thing is yet another arm of the multi-pronged marketing strategy cooked up by the struggling cork manufacturers to save their asses in the face of falling demand for their product, but I will say that it is any commercial agricultural company's wet dream of a PR campaign. Let's get the environmentalists to indirectly endorse our products by suggesting that if we go out of business, the little creatures that happen to live in our fields will be in danger.

Maybe the cork companies just got lucky, but even if they had nothing to do with this story, it still stinks to high heaven.

Let's start with what a cork oak forest looks like:

cork_oak_harvest.jpg
Photo by Ryan Opaz of Catavino.

Not exactly pristine natural habitat, is it? Looks more like a farm, which is exactly what it is. I wonder what the place looked like before humans got the idea to start stripping the bark off the trees? I could be wrong, but I'd be willing to bet that there were a lot more wild animals in the cork forest before we started farming it.

But let's for a moment take at face value the claim that these cork forests are indeed valuable habitat for a number of creatures. It's not much of a stretch to believe such a thing, even if it were a particular species of dung beetle, let alone a beautiful creature like the Iberian Lynx. But the notion that because some animals might live in these forests, then somehow any competitive threat to the cork industry is tantamount to environmental destruction and species endangerment is utterly and completely laughable.

Here's an analogy: You have a farm, and I have a farm. I grow barley, which everyone has eaten for years. You grow wheat, which is a newfangled grain that people are just getting excited about. And I'm a bit of a sloppy farmer, so that the barley I bring to market is rotten about 6% of the time. After a few years, people are tired of getting rotten barley, they're starting to like the taste of wheat, and I'm losing money, and can't afford to till all of my fields. Did I mention that I have long haired rabbits that live in my fields? How excited would I be if an environmentalist came along and wrote an paper saying that people need to stop eating wheat because it is endangering the long haired rabbits?

This so called "species endangerment argument" against screwcaps completely ignores basic principles of economics and the fact that the whole reason that screwcaps were ever put on wine bottles in the first place was because the cork industry were supplying many people with an inferior product that ruined countless bottles of wine.

Yet somehow a bunch of scientists and reporters manage to concoct a drama that pits the screwcap wine closure industry against the poor Iberian Lynx.

And about that Iberian Lynx....It's the most endangered feline species on the planet, and the most threatened carnivore in Europe. It's so critically endangered that there were only about 100 of them left in 2005, and every single piece of the cat's current habitat, the majority of which is not even in the country of Portugal, let alone its cork forests, is protected by law. The biggest cause of death for the Iberian Lynx at the moment? Automobile collisions.

The cork industry, cork farmers, and the cork forests of the world are subject to the same laws of economics as the rest of the world. If wine drinkers no longer want their wines closed with tree bark (unlikely to happen anytime soon) then the cork industry will most certainly suffer. Farmers who now grow cork oaks will most certainly rip them out and plant other things that they can actually use to feed their families, as well they should, in the absence of any other way to do so, or any incentive from the government to encourage conservation.

It may be that, indeed, cork forests deserved to be preserved for any number of reasons, whether cultural, environmental, or even simply for civic enjoyment. This would presumably involve people and governments who care about such things deciding to spend the money to do so.

It also may be factually true that cork closures are literally better for the environment than screwcaps, from the standpoint of their total carbon footprint, amount of chemical pollutants, et cetera, but I have yet to see a definitive study on the subject. The scientific jury is still out on whether they are indeed the best closures for wines that will age a long time, though many believe this to be true (myself included).

Regardless, we should not tolerate lousy journalism and crappy environmental science that suggests to consumers that their choice of wine bottle is threatening endangered species, and that winemakers should suffer having portion of their product ruined every year... for the kitties.

Comments (64)

11.29.08 at 8:16 PM

Hmmm,

I will have to read up on this, but at first look, it smacks of a tobacco industry styled hit.

Good post, as you know, this is my kind of stuff. Love it. Let's see if we can find actual sources.

TM

11.29.08 at 8:21 PM

...sorry, but this also supports the thinking among many that the best thing to happen to the cork industry was the screwcap, it forced them "up" their product. They have had a monopoly on the market for so long they forgot what the term "quality control" even meant, now they are making noticeable differences and positive strides in offering a more stable product.

but man, I'd love to see where this goes.

TM

George Reddog wrote:
11.30.08 at 11:20 AM
Alder wrote:
11.30.08 at 3:42 PM

George,

Thanks for the links. The Audubon article is more of the same one-sided reporting, regurgitating the same one sided logic, i.e. buying screwcapped wines endangers ecosystems. This is patently not true, and unfairly puts wine drinkers in a moral bind where they have to choose between drinking wine they like and destroying the environment. Setting up such an argument is unethical and shameful.

Alder

Lisa Mattson wrote:
11.30.08 at 3:58 PM

Their new marketing shtick is amazing, you have to admit. Maybe we see their motives and questionable ethics. I'm actually surprised only 37,000 have watched this http://www.savemiguel.com/ video on youtube.

Alder wrote:
11.30.08 at 4:08 PM

OMFG.

Dylan wrote:
11.30.08 at 6:21 PM

Haha, wow. Rob Schneider is on their side. That was actually pretty amusing. However, I still don't quite understand their argument: by using screw tops, we don't use cork trees, because less people need cork. By not using cork trees, then there are too many available, thus affecting the ecosystem?

Bob Hall wrote:
11.30.08 at 7:22 PM

I'm on the side of information. I like to know what's in the products that I buy, where they come from, how they were harvested and whether they were sustainably grown. Let the screw cap industry defend themselves. I would love to hear if they think this is a crock or not. I've seen groves or oak trees in the Sierra foothills destroyed and burned for fire wood to accommodate more housing so there's no guarantee that the same won't happen to cork farms. Admittedly, I'm a birdwatcher and a wine lover so habitat that wildlife and humans can both profit from is important to me, and a rare win-win. And, at half the price of cork, I don't think you have to worry about screw tops vanishing anytime soon.
Keep up the interesting posts,
Bob
P.S. You were right about Thanksgiving wine pairing. The guests happily clobbered their meal with the heavy cab instead of the light pinot. So why stress if everyone is happy.

George Reddog wrote:
11.30.08 at 11:13 PM

Hi Alder -

"The same one-sided reporting, regurgitating the same one sided logic, i.e. buying screwcapped wines endangers ecosystems."

One-sided logic = an opinion (although you are welcome to disagree with it!). There is no illogic here; just an opinion different than yours.

"This is patently not true, and unfairly puts wine drinkers in a moral bind where they have to choose between drinking wine they like and destroying the environment. Setting up such an argument is unethical and shameful."

This is not true according to "your" personal view/opinion. This does not necessarily put one in a moral bind. Life is full of moral binds. In the wine world, lead capsules were purportedly a health risk, and replaced by aluminum or other treatment. Was this a moral bind? I think it is a bit over-the-top to call this argument unethical and shameful. I think cork is a more sustainable closure than a industrial manufactured closure. It creates a community of people, flora, and landscape/ecosystem that is preferable to the heavily oil-based screw cap, synthetic, and glass closure industries. It keeps vast tracks of land open as habitat and preserves in the densely populated European coastal communities. trees are harvestable for cork after about 60 years of age and re-harvestable about every 9 years.. Upon discarding the cork to the waste pile, it decomposes.

Overall, I don't think your logical equation is correct. You may not like cork because of the occasional/chance sensory flaws it creates in wine, but perhaps this is the real price we pay for a sustainable product that is biodegradable. What are the hidden ecological costs of the alternative?

The cork companies may be using ecological arguments to promote the sale of their product against industrial closure competition. Dylan, if the cork trees are not harvested and used, the trees will be removed and the land, much o it with proximity to the Mediterranean, will be subdivided and sold off for European vacation condos. A similar thing is happening with pineapple plantations in Hawaii.

The Appellation American article attempts to discuss the subtly of this argument. It points out how winemaking must change to accommodate different types of closures. Reduction vs. oxidation. Screw caps might be the ticket for every day wines, but for fine wine make mine cork!

The greatest wines of the world are all still bottled with a cork closure including your recently reviewed
2004 E. Guigal "Chateau d'Ampuis" Côte-Rôtie, Northern Rhone, France (not my favorite Guigal BTW)


Great blog topic to stir up a tempest!

Cheers,

George

Alder wrote:
12.01.08 at 9:25 AM

George,

The logical problem that I am trying to point out here is quite real. In the philosophical world of logic (in which I admittedly don't have a PhD) I believe it is known as the fallacy of affirming the consequent. It is a formal flaw in argument.

The argument being made is that drinking wine with screwcapped bottles is endangering ecosystems.

This is literally not true. What is endangering these ecosystems is the destruction of cork forests.

Screwcapped bottles of wine are not destroying these forests. The people who are destroying these forest are the ones that are destroying these forests.

And why are they destroying these forests? Not because people are drinking screwcapped wine. They are doing it for many reasons, no doubt, one of which may be economic -- which is to say that they can live better lives by growing things other than cork.

Why can they live better lives by growing things other than cork? Not because people are buying screwcapped wine, but because the prices that companies are willing to pay for cork, and the amount of cork that they are buying (interrelated economic forces) are dropping. Why are these prices dropping? Not because people are drinking screwcapped wine. Because international demand for cork is also dropping.

Why is this demand dropping? MANY reasons, one of which is that the companies who make wine bottle closures out of cork have made lousy products. That's not my opinion, that's a fact of the marketplace. The poor quality of these closures have literally FORCED winemakers and producers to look for alternatives, according to the same economic principles that have forced cork growers to look at other means of supporting their families. It's simple economics.

What I've tried lay out here is that there are many many factors that are chaining together to drive the destruction of cork forests. To say that people drinking screwcapped wine, an action that is so far down the chain of interrelated actions is causing this destruction is literally illogical and counterfactual.

It is still problematic (because of these complex marketplace interactions), but actually a much stronger case that poor quality control and manufacturing by cork companies is more responsible for the destruction of these ecosystems.

But let's take a step back here and look at the problem from the other side. If we actually wanted to save these endangered species, and preserve this habitat, what would be the most efficacious way of doing so? It certainly would not be to have consumers around the world stop buying screwcaps. If we _really_ cared about these habitats and the animals they contain, the fastest way to preserve them is not by using what amounts to the principles of "trickle-down economics."

Why not declare all these cork forests national parks or wildlife refuges? Why not remove the roads that are killing the Lynxs and the power lines that are killing birds? Why not spend the relatively tiny amount of money to make sure that these farmers don't have an economic incentive to burn their forests down?

Any one of these things would be infinitely more effective than trying to reduce the amount of screwcapped wine that the world drinks, which further reinforces the argument that buying screwcapped wine is NOT the cause of this environmental destruction.

ndog wrote:
12.01.08 at 9:36 AM

looks like Alder is a dog man

Alder wrote:
12.01.08 at 10:09 AM

Heh. I'm sure it seems that way. But I adore cats.

Blind Muscat wrote:
12.02.08 at 1:45 PM

Damn, Alder, who put the TCA in your cranberry sauce? Hardly an example of the generous holiday spirit.

It is no doubt a stretch to draw a line directly from my opening of a screwcap bottle to the demise of the Iberian lynx. Just as it is a mistake to think that the fumes from my personal SUV are directly responsible for the demise of coral reefs in Southeast Asia. But in both cases, there is something worth thinking about, some relationship between individual choices and global consequences.

Is it likely that natural cork is a more environmentally-friendly product than the alternatives made from petroleum and aluminum? Looks that way to me. Is that the only issue in deciding about wine closures? Hardly. But it is legitimately one issue. One alarmist headline does not discredit an entire line of argument.

Arguments from analogy are often slippery things, as I know well from my own use of the form. But your conjuring up of the pair of farmers is a doozy. Rather than having you grow barley and me grow wheat, the case you set up, you might try having Farmer A do barley (badly) and Farmer B make synthetic, grain-like food substitutes out of petrochemicals --though I can see why you didn't use that version.

What's more, if indeed your barley patch was the only known habitat for long-haired rabbits, you betcha I'd try to stop you from converting to wheat, petrochemicals, or anything else.

The parts of this whole debate that have to do with real or alleged market forces are numerous and often self-contradictory. The driving force that imperils the cork stopper industry (and thus the forests) isn't consumer hatred of TCA (irritating as that is), but the desire of wineries to cut costs--synthetics and screwcaps are way, way cheaper. Letting the market decide the fate of vast stretches of Portugal sounds like a fine idea--unless you've read a newspaper in the past two months and realize the market is less than infallible. Turning the forests into national parks (a non-market solution) is a much less practical solution than reinvigorating consumer demand for corks--the point of the cork industry's environmental campaign.

I'm going to go curl up in the back seat of my SUV with a $100 bottle of screwcapped PlumpJack Cab and ponder what this all means.

Alder wrote:
12.02.08 at 1:55 PM

Tim,

Great addition to the discussion. But just a quibble with your second to last paragraph. If indeed the drive to use screwcaps is about wineries lowering costs independent of consumer demand, then how effective is making consumers feel guilty about drinking wine with screwcaps going to be?

Alder wrote:
12.02.08 at 2:07 PM

Also Tim,

Your point about the limitation of analogies is well taken, but the one you've set up between SUV and consumer choice isn't working for me. The emissions from your SUV DIRECTLY affect the environment. The choice of a screwcap only does through a complex chain of causality and economics. The impact of people stopping driving SUVs has a much more immediate impact on air quality than consumer wine buying choices.

Alder wrote:
12.02.08 at 2:41 PM

Hey everyone. Did you know that wine stoppers make up only 15% of total world cork production? That's right. 85% of cork produced never goes anywhere near a wine bottle.

But guess how much revenue that 15% makes the cork companies? 66% of their annual revenue.

You do the math. The impact of the use of screwcaps on the cork companies from a financial perspective GROSSLY outweighs the impact on the annual demand for the material itself.

If cork wine stoppers went away completely, the cork industry would still need to produce 85% of the cork that it currently does, but would likely be bankrupt.

See http://www.corkqc.com/production/production2.htm for data.

Umbria wrote:
12.03.08 at 9:16 AM

My gut instinct would usually be to side with natural cork (especially after having visited the cork forests in Sardinia last year) but when the world's leading cork producer, Amorim (with Euro 453 million in sales in 2007), is telling me to "Save Miguel" it makes me very nervous. I also missed the bit where just because people stop using cork that these companies (which I am assuming own the land on which the forests are located) are going cut them down to build car parks: "buy our corks or Miguel gets it" (to turn their campaign on its head slightly).

Stefen wrote:
12.03.08 at 5:31 PM

Many wineries have switched to screw caps because they believe the screw cap closure is the better closure for wine in that bottle. We produce 17 different wines, and we chose to switch to screw caps for our sauvignon blanc only. It was an entirely quality based decision - the cost savings was merely a bonus.

Alder wrote:
12.03.08 at 9:51 PM

Umbria,

Thanks for the comments. I hear ya. Just to clarify what the environmental argument is: much cork forest is owned by individual farmers who sell their cork to the cork companies. The fear is that if the cork companies aren't buying as much cork, these people will not be able to earn a living and will then burn down their trees and plant something else that they CAN sell to make a living.

Wolfy wrote:
12.08.08 at 5:40 PM

While some of the arguments in favor of cork are patently targeted to leverage the green-environmentalist-global-warming hype, as a consumer I'm still not convinced that screw caps, silicone or other synthetic alternatives are really better altogether.

Cork has been proven to allow wine to age properly for decades. Would you use a screw cap on a bottle of Chateau d'Yquem or Brunello di Montalcino without further research? Of course we have to test potential alternatives to cork but, correct me if I'm wrong, at the moment we don't know how a wine would taste after 10, 20, 50 years of been bottled with a screw cap.

I've always been told that cork is not a foolproof sealant and so it allows the wine to breath during aging. Is it true or false? Can we lower or zero out the percentage of faulty corks we use on bottles?

These are the questions I'd like to have answers to.

Alder wrote:
12.08.08 at 5:53 PM

Wolfy,

Indeed, those things you speak about have yet to be definitively proven. The longest study I know of is a 10 year study of wine under screwcap vs. cork, which was favorable to screwcaps, but does not represent a definitive judgement. Can't find reference to it at the moment, but it's out there.

What we need is folks who make really high-end wine to try them out for a decade or two (which I have every hope some of them are currently doing) and then we will have the definitive answer.

slaked wrote:
12.11.08 at 9:14 AM

screw caps suck. SUVs suck too.

viva Miguel! viva cork! viva Liberte!

Greg wrote:
12.11.08 at 8:50 PM

This is a nice rant Alder. And I agree with you. As I commented awhile back in another post, I spent 2 weeks cycling in Portugal and what was most remarkable to me was that Brazil must have learned how to deforest from their mother country. What forest Portugal has - right up to the edge of the cherished Bucaco National Forest (effectively a park ~575 years old) is a reforested tree farm. As far as the eye can see in most places there is nothing but this tiny fast growth eucalyptus. At 52.5% of global cork (http://www.realcork.org/artigo.php?art=63) I imagine that Portugal's cork farms are similarly focused on production. If any endangered species or ecosystems were hiding on the cork and tree farms, they were put at risk long long ago. All this said, Portugal is absolutely wonderful and I would revisit its reseeded forests without hestitation.

inside guy wrote:
12.31.08 at 7:35 AM

Great string here. Greg is partly right. The Portugal government had to create a protected area of eucalyptus because the cork farmers were clear cutting them to plant - yep you guessed it - cork trees. Cork trees are not indigenous to the region to begin with. So let's clear cut a natural habitat of eucalyptus trees, replace them with cork trees and cry foul when the environment can become a scapegoat for a true lack of forward thinking about other areas cork can be used and marketed. We are finally figuring out that cork has other applications: floors, shoes, sound insulators ... oh wait, we've had those for years.

Some facts however we should know. Head-space (the distance between the wine fill level and the top of the bottle), SO-2 conversion to oxygen, wine's natural chemistry and the amount of oxygen that enters the wine during production are all effected differently based on the closure you choose. This is proven. Cork is not the beat all, nor is screwcap, nor synthetics. Each of these products are being offered in different grades, OTR (oxygen transfer rates), colors and sizes for a reason. If there were only three choices in closures, then the industry wouldn't be so large.

So if your a consumer let's hope the wine maker did their homework to offer the best solution, not what is trendy. Enjoy the wine - or not - it's how the wine maker intended - I hope. Send back the corked wine, send back the scalped wine and by all means send back the wine that just is oxidized, and don't fall for the hype just because it sounds good.

I'm a "green" practicing guy, but the information being offer by the cork industry is only half right. Do your homework.


01.02.09 at 9:05 AM

Point 1- Inside guy wrote "The Portugal government had to create a protected area of eucalyptus because the cork farmers were clear cutting them to plant - yep you guessed it - cork trees. Cork trees are not indigenous to the region to begin with".

Congratulations, I didn't laugh so loudly for quite a long time.
You don't transform a lie in something true simply by publishing it in the internet. In Portugal we say that the poorest blind man is the one that refuses to see the truth. For someone that claims to be an "inside guy" I would simply recommend to: Get "inside" the real facts! Eucalyptus are native from Australia and Tasmania, they don't need any protection of the Portuguese government or any other government of the northern hemisphere. Eucalyptus trees were introduced in Portugal, as in many other countries, for the production of pulp (and I can send you thousands of scientific papers about the negative impacts of the intensive plantations of eucalyptus in southern Europe).
Oh and by the way they are included in a list of potential invasive plants in Portugal. And in case you don't know, the UN considers invasive species the second most import threat to the biodiversity of our planet.
And yes, allow me to destroy your dreams, but cork trees are native in Portugal. It’s absolutely ridiculous even to discuss it…

Point 2: Alder wrote: “(…)and unfairly puts wine drinkers in a moral bind where they have to choose between drinking wine they like and destroying the environment. Setting up such an argument is unethical and shameful”.

First of all…You don’t have to decide; the greatest wines of the world are all bottled with a cork closure. I guess that the great wine producers are waiting for scientific papers that prove that plastic stoppers are better for the wine, especially for the good red wine that needs to spend several years inside the bottle

And let me tell you something; as consumers we all have to be aware that our choices, when we buy a certain article, have consequences. Of course we can act like little children and ignore that when we buy certain clothes or shoes we are not contributing to the exploitation of children work in the third world; we can pretend when we buy certain furniture, made from the wood of tropical species, we are not contributing to the destruction of the tropical forests; and, finally, we can pretend that the plastic stoppers have no consequences for the environment and that they don’t affect the cork ecosystems (that according to several scientific studies are consider absolutely essential to avoid the desertification of Southern Europe). And we can pretend that when the plastic industry finally destroys the cork industry, the farmers will simply earn their money from air and will not sell their land for the construction of luxury resorts for northern Europe (or American) tourists or replace the cork trees plantations for intensive eucalyptus forests.

I guess we are all adults that don’t live in “The land of fantasy” and that we are all aware that all of our actions, including as consumers, have consequences. Is this something "unethical and shameful"? I don't think so...Unethical and shameful is to considerer that our actions have no consequences!

Alder wrote:
01.02.09 at 9:25 AM

Pedro,

Thanks for taking the time to comment on Vinography. I don't disagree with anything you say, except that your request for people consider the consequences of their actions (a good idea) is loaded with the same one-sided logic that I am objecting to throughout my rant. Your request for conscious consequentialism implies that it is a certainty that plastic closures are worse for the environment than cork closures, that if the cork industry fails it will be the fault of plastic closures, and that the cork trees are the lynchpin to preventing desertification of southern Europe. To which I would say: prove it. As far as I know, the jury is still out on whether taking into account carbon footprints, plastic closures are indeed worse for the environment than cork, and the other two claims are simply ridiculous.

It's not unethical or shameful in the least for us to all be more responsible global citizens and to preserve the environment. It IS unethical and shameful to push people into certain actions in the name of sustainability when the arguments for doing so are biased, speculative, or in some cases, complete fabrications.

01.02.09 at 1:04 PM

Alder,

Thank you so much for using some of your time to respond to my previous comment.
You are right at least when you say “(…) that if the cork industry fails it will not be the fault of plastic closures…”. Like all kinds of industry the cork industry is far from being perfect. And of course there are some problems with the sustainability of cork plantations there aren’t a direct consequence of the plastic closures industry, but of the Portuguese farmers exclusively. And I give you credit for other aspect; some articles on the newspapers are so fundamentalist that prejudice, instead of helping, some causes.

But not all is about CO2 emissions when we talk about the impact in the environment, although I would be very interested in reading any serious study that compared the impact of a industry that promotes a renewable product with the impacts of a industry that uses petroleum derivates (in terms of the CO2 emissions or any other aspect).

For Southern Europe, especially for Portugal and Spain, this question is not a simple economic or a philosophical issue. It is a question about how to maintain an ecosystem that supports a large biodiversity (http://www.naturlink.pt/canais/Artigo.asp?iArtigo=5113&iLingua=2) and that plays a crucial role preventing the desertification of the soils in Southern Portugal. (assets.panda.org/downloads/report_summary.doc)

You may find it ridiculous but I considerer it at least naïf to think that one day, in case cork closures would be abandon, the farmers would maintain cork trees in their lands.
They have to make a living! And if they don’t take their money from cork they will replace these ecosystems for eucalyptus or olive trees intensive plantations or sell their lands for resorts. This economic pressure exists nowadays even when the cork production still provides some profit for the farmers. It is already happening so can you imagine what will happen in the future, in case farmers don’t find any buyer for their cork?

Of course you, or any of your readers, can always say: “That’s not my problem!” Of course it isn’t! But that doesn’t mean that this effective problem doesn’t exist or that, using your exact words, is a “(…) speculative, or in some cases, complete fabrication.”

To end this discussion I recommend you to drink a fine Portuguese wine, like a “Quinta do Crasto” (#3 on the top 10 of “Wine Spectator”); and when you remove the cork closure remember that you are helping more than an industry, you are also helping to maintain an unique ecosystem and culture in the world.
Of course I’m assuming that you are a person that valorises these aspects when you choose a product to buy. I’m not here to judge your character or to force you to believe in the same ideals that I do. I want this to be perfectly clear.

Gil wrote:
01.03.09 at 3:30 AM

Cork stoppers should not be seen only as a stopper but also as an element of wine processing. Independent studies have demonstrated that cork stoppers are the only system which allows the right evolution of bottled wine. Besides this cork, like oak, interacts with the wine (organoleptic improvement) and some phenolic and other compounds go to the wine. A recent study (and patent) showed that a very strong anti-tumoural agent (acutissimin A) is formed when some cork components react with some wine components. None of the other systems (screwcaps and plastic stoppers) have this type of behaviour. Yet cork production increases CO2 sequestration (in 1 year all the cork stoppers produced represent the pollution of about 50.000 cars). Cork extraction improves cork production by cork oaks, which also improves CO2 sequestration. If it is not economically possible to grow cork oaks, other land exploitation will follow, but the present habitats are lost, with the corresponding loss of a lot of plant and animal species. Only one which does not know the present cork industry may speak of low quality. I am a witness that the most recent cork industries have an extreme, modern, hi-tec and clean care in their industrial processing, dealing with the most recent quality control and management systems.

01.03.09 at 11:27 AM

I think what some people, perhaps everyone, definitely a few, are overlooking here is that Alder and in fact I’m quite sure the entire wine buying public – are not attacking the cork versus screwcap debate with any ultimatums.

Personally: I prefer cork for wines I plan to enjoy in my twilight years, or for juice I hope my spawn will either one day enjoy in a glass or enjoy in the way of a new addition to their house after they auction off my years of collecting. Quick whites and anemic reds? Anything but those butt-plugs they call Corq and I’m okay with it.

The issue here with Alder’s post, and with the Telegraph article (which a form of has been in circulation since at least 2001 on the InterWeb) which I also take exception to, is this:
Why does the cork industry, who so many here have come to the defense of and praised in terms of recent quality leaps (which are true by the way – the best thing to ever happen to cork quality was the screwcap, until then quite honestly they didn’t give a damn, and they didn’t have to, it was a perfect monopoly) why do they have to HIRE an eco-journalist to write a story about the poor Iberian Lynx, and effectively posture the cork industry as one who holds a knife to the poor kitty’s throat?

“If you don’t buy cork, the kitty gets it!”

That is the central issue being published in the Telegraph article, and don’t even get me started on the “Save Miguel” piece.

If cork wine closures only account for only 15% of production, where’s the problem? Oh right, it’s because the cork industry rakes in, on average, about 60% of its entire annual income from wineries.

My advice to the cork industry, in no particular order:
1) Diversify and spread the fiscal responsibility among the cork gasket, flooring and corkboard concerns. Those guys don’t care about cork failure, do they? It would seem to me if the highest grossing sector of your industry is also the one that complains the most about your product’s inability to do what it was designed to do, you’d fix that problem from within?
2) Put the knife down and let the kitty go. I’m tired of hearing about how if you don’t buy our product thousands will lose jobs, the earth will become a burnt cinder of a planet, and a cat will die. There are numerous ways to convince the generally dim buying public to use your product, hell people bought pet rocks. Be creative, not reactionary.
3) Make product that we aren’t supposed to accept as being faulty about 6%-10% of the time. I’ve closed and opened many a bottle in my day. And when a man has to examine his newly purchased corks at a bottling line and pitch about 2%-5% of them just on visual inspection, well that kind of financial laziness is hard for a small winery to stomach. Then the whole public image thing goes into effect: how many people can really nail down that a wine is flawed due to cork failure or TCA? Not as many as we would all like to believe. If those people just assume the wine sucks (and they do) then where does that put the winemaker? He just shot his entire endeavor right in the foot thanks to a cork, a cork he purchased with the unwritten agreement that it should simply keep the wine in a bottle without any adverse effects, meanwhile keeping out the oxygen. If you have ever had to show wine as a part of your business, there is nothing more demoralizing than having to apologize for your choice in cork and then convince the buyer/writer/man on the street to try again as you quickly pop another bottle.

The present tack the cork industry is taking, with its guilt-inducing crosshairs trained squarely on our latest generation of eco-sheep who are only too happy to buy whatever they are told is good for the environment (I give you the Hybrid Escalade) is at the least disingenuous, and at the most, distracting the buyer from the real issue with heartfelt pleas for the kitty or barely humorous has-been SNL guys acting as our tour guide through Portugal.

You have had it too good for too long Cork, time to step up your game, or ask Portugal for a bailout… you know, for the kitties.

01.03.09 at 12:55 PM

Tannat,

Maybe, instead of all those advices to the cork industry, it would have been more educative if you had nominated a single study that proved that synthetic closures are better than cork? (For the wine and for the global environment, because I’m pretty sure you’ll find many saying they are better for the north-American industry of synthetic closures). A single one…Please! I’m dying to see one!

Is Jancis Robinson being an “eco-sheep”, in your opinion, when she relates the taste of “rubber” in the wine with the use of screw caps? (Please watch this video: http://tv.winelibrary.com/2008/10/30/a-wine-tasting-with-jancis-robinson-episode-568/)

Maybe it’s because I’m not as sophisticated as you are…but I still don’t get it! Why do the greatest wine producers prefer cork closures if cork have all that defects? Are they also being just a bunch of “eco-sheep” controlled by the famous and powerful lobby of the Iberian lynx?!

Maybe the problem is just mine, but I never gave up on a certain wine because of a bad cork. Some wines aren’t juts good enough whatever the type of closure you use.

And let me give you a final advice, since you seem to enjoy “advices” so much: you’ll never win a debate trying other people ideas to sound ridiculous by using words or expressions as “eco-sheep” or “kitties”. You are not dealing with “eco-fundamentalists that know nothing about the wine industry” so, do me a favor, and don’t treat me as one…Thank you!

During the past the Portuguese wine and cork industry defeated enemies, like the grape-mildew and phylloxera, much more powerful than the “lobby of the screw caps”. I’m pretty sure that in the future we’ll still produce some of the finest wines of the world bottled using cork closures….you know, for the pleasure of wine lovers (like yourself).

01.03.09 at 1:19 PM

Tannat,

P.S. - There's seemed to be a problem with the link I wrote on my previous comment. This is the right one:
http://tv.winelibrary.com/2008/10/30/a-wine-tasting-with-jancis-robinson-episode-568/

I also forgot to say you are right in some aspects:
a) The cork industry needs to continually improve the quality of the cork closures; and of course you don’t achieve that with a monopoly.
b) Not all the problems of the cork industry are related with the synthetic industry.
c) The conservation of the biodiversity of the Mediterranean has much deeper problems than those related with the cork production;
d) The cork industry will only win this battle if it proves that his product is better for the wine and the environment; but, in this case, we can also say that the “screwcaps industry” will only win this battle the day they prove that the synthetic closures are better for the wine and for the environment.

01.03.09 at 2:28 PM

Hey Pedro,

I understand you have a vested interest in this, so I am taking this all with a grain of salt, no harm, no foul...

Again, when the cork industry subsidizes a report that tells consumers a cat will die if you do not buy wine with cork closures, what does that tell you, as an unbiased consumer… the word you are looking for is disingenuous. I for one am tired of this kind of deflection.

Show me a study that reports the failure rate of screwcaps over cork.

If you ever want to tag along at a wine event, or open over a hundred wines at an event and see how many of the world’s greatest wines have to be poured down the toilet due to a failed cork, let me know, and I can arrange it (anywhere in the US if in Europe, I can certainly point you to a few events there where you will be allowed the courtesy of watching numerous bottles of first growths, grand crus, and heavenly German wines being judged corked and thus promptly flushed). From DRC to VDP, no one is immune to cork failure, even if you buy the highest grade of cork available… I get cases upon cases of samples of wine from across the globe. Never have I had to pour a wine down the sink due to a failed screwcap. Never. In fact, the only known defect in screwcaps was discovered and fixed in early generations. You know what that was? If you stacked your pallets of wine more than twelve cases high, the tops of the caps on that bottom case would/could be compromised from the excessive pressure and therefore break the seal. A thicker disc and sturdier cap resolved that, over ten years ago.

The reason you will never find a study like the one you ask of me is because 1) the “screwcap cartel” hasn’t (yet, maybe never?) hired any journalists or wildlife organizations to flood the public with cries of “save mother earth, don’t use cork,” and 2) no one, even Stelvin, has ever said that scewcaps are the end-all solution to wine closures (at least not in their present state) – if you really want to end the argument, just look to tetra paks and box wine – zero oxidation, ease of use, and no “rubber” imparted to the wine. Granted, the romance factor for those applications is something like saltpeter.

Jancis. I like Jancis, I even like Vay-Ner-Chuk. I didn’t find anywhere in all 42:57 of that episode where she said that corks were superior, or where screwcaps were bad for the environment, or where kitties would die if we all went to screwcaps. Remember, those are the issues here. Her opinion, granted it is a powerful one, but that opinion of what she picks up in re: screwcaps has zero bearing on the argument at hand: The cork industry is playing on the heartstrings of eco-sheep to help it fight against its main competition – screwcaps. Nevermind the fact that the rubber Gary picked up came from a white that was enclosed with cork… and that she didn’t disagree with his opinion of the wine. Show me the episode where she associates aromas of mold and wet cardboard with cork failure. It isn’t there, but you know she does, because it is a well known fact. She has even written about it a few times if you care to look…

I’ve judged several NZ tastings, I’ve imbibed, for pleasure and work, numerous vintages of Bonny Doon – The only time I (and this is just me) got rubber from a screwcap was when the bottle in question contained Mourvedre, which one would expect given that grapes predilection for petrochemical notes. Oh and yes I got some rubber/petrol/chemical stuff off of some Pinot Gris from Willamette, again, is that the screwcap or the grape?
If I can’t be coy, you can’t be coy. The Iberian Lynx has no cartel, but they have been wholeheartedly adopted by the Cork Cartel, unlike the Stone Marten which the WWF and Amorim have decided to leave out in the cold. Find out how that creature is fairing up under the lack of undergrowth in its native habitat which is being compromised directly due to cork harvesting and get back to me.

Pedro, I like corks. I do. I also like screwcaps. I loathe Corq, but I think everyone agrees on that front for now, even Randall Grahm himself passed on those, after championing them for a few vintages.

I’d also like to congratulate you on never giving up on a wine because of a bad cork – but how many people have? How many people have passed judgment on a winery, and entire winery’s vintage, perhaps an entire winery’s production, from one bad bottle that wasn’t the winemaker’s fault? I have spoken to at least 23 actual people in the last ten years, upon checking my notes, people who have walked away from a varietal, a vintage, a producer, a bottling, because it tasted bad, and the bad tastes they described were characteristic of a failed cork and uncharacteristic of the varietal, vintage, winemaker, region, bottling, etc… 23 from one writer’s experience, and they have friends. Granted these are neophytes, but from these neophytes come the future wine buying public. You piss them off with corked wine, you lose.

But the issue here is not cork v. screwcap.

The issue here is the desperation that one senses in the ”marketing” that the cork industry has employed to support their product, to dismiss the inherent flaws in their product, and to deflect attention away from those flaws and focus on a loosely knit allegory of screwcap=extinction.

I don’t like being lied to. I really don’t like being thought of as a fool. The cork industry trespasses on both areas with this type of behavior. And don’t kid yourself into thinking there aren’t plenty of “eco-sheep” herding their way around us, green is in, and it makes money. So anytime you can attach an eco-angle to your business, you win in the eyes of the general public. Just don’t lie to us and pretend we will be happy with it. Eco-sheep are people who follow the latest trend in being green and therefore, “cool” because they are told to do so, not because of any empirical data. Show the empirical data (that wasn’t funded by Amorim) that says the Iberian Lynx, an internationally protected species which enjoys an internationally protected range within a nationally protected cork forest, will become extinct if I continue to enjoy NZ SvB? Too many leaps in logic there to pass any critical analysis with muster.

You say we shouldn’t put the fate of the Iberian Lynx at the feet of the poor cork producers, I say you shouldn’t put the fate of the Iberian Lynx at the feet of the winebuying public. I think that is all we are saying here. That and don’t lie to us, play on our emotions, and manufacture a report to support a flawed (proven) product. Period.

Now in five years when Stelvin has mastered the perfect inert seal that also mimics the same micro-oxygen transfer rate as a cork, and cork plummets to a 5% marketshare in closures, and the government of Portugal rescinds its laws of cork forestation for the sake of economy, and the kitties truly face extinction because of the almighty dollar, then we can pick this discussion back up.

Until then the ball is in the cork cartel’s court, and they know the market is theirs to lose.

01.03.09 at 3:32 PM

Tannat,

It’s funny (or not) but after reading carefully your extensive text I came to the conclusion that I don’t disagree with much of what you say…

I totally agree that the cork industry will only win this war if it proves that their product is better; and I agree that if they insist, for too long, on the “emotional factor” they will lose.
But I don’t represent the industry, the same way I don’t consider myself an “eco-fundamentalist”; the same way I would be very piss off if I gave a lot of money for a bottle of wine and I found out, later, that something was wrong because of a bad cork closure (still I’m not convinced that all the problems that might occur with a bottle of wine are caused for bad cork closures; for the opposite, a good cork can improve some of the qualities of the wine…And that I find very difficult to be imitated by any synthetic component).

And I know that the future of the cork forests and all the biodiversity they support is not a problem of the wine industry or wine consumers. But I can’t accept the idea that corks have no future, that the cork industry is not doing an enormous effort to improve the quality of their product (the same way they are finding every day new applications for cork) and that the survival of the cork forests does not depend (not only but also…) on the future of this war.
I know it’s to too much pressure to put on wine consumers…But the problem is real. As I told before, we have defeated more powerful enemies in the past. Just don’t give up on the cork…yet! There are a lot of people, in the industry and in universities, working to improve the product and we know that winning depends on the success of these investigations much more than on wine producers/consumers decisions.

In conclusion: you don’t accept, as wine consumers or producers, to be the direct responsible for the extinction of cork forests…Ok, I give you that. But, for the other way, don’t try to promote the idea that all the problems with wine are caused by cork or that screwcaps are the solution to all the problems affecting the quality of the wine; Or the idea that the cork industry is more harmful to the environment than the petroleum industry; that the extraction of the cork kills the trees or that the cork forest doesn’t support an amazing biodiversity (that this particular fact is speculative or a fabrication of some neurotic Portuguese eco-fundamentalist).

In Portugal we are not all eco-sheep controlled by the Amorim Group and there are some truly professional experts trying to develop better corks and, by doing that, trying to help the extinction of the cork forests. Just don’t give up on us…I’m pretty sure that the nation that has the oldest marked wine region will find it’s way and I’m pretty sure that our grand sons will enjoy the pleasure of a fine Porto Vintage or “Barca Velha” bottled with cork.

Tannat wrote:
01.23.09 at 5:01 PM
Steve wrote:
02.11.09 at 2:50 AM

Alder
You've been asking where there are studies of the impact of replacement of cork stoppers on the Iberian Lynx habitat – here is one of the more recent ones. As you can see from the bibliography there are many other scientific sources to back up the conclusions.
Cork Screwed - Environmental and Economic Impacts of the Cork Stoppers Market
http://www.pluridoc.com/Site/FrontOffice/default.aspx?module=Files/FileDescription&ID=759&state=SH
There has been concern about the disappearance of the Iberian Lynx for a long time. Well before the cork industry became seriously worried about the competition from synthetic closures. Portugal established its first national park early last century specifically to protect the Iberian Lynx population. Unfortunately conservation by itself has not worked.
Studies of the reasons for the lynx's demise in Portugal and Spain concluded that their disappearance is due to various factors, as you have rightly pointed out: loss of habitat, illegal trapping, road kill and reduction in the availability of their principal food. In this respect the analogy you chose is suspiciously relevant. The Iberian Lynx's preferred food is the wild rabbit. The rabbit has suffered such a major decline over the last century that Portugal has recently declared it also to be a species at risk.
So what has that to do with wine drinkers choosing how they want to buy their wines?
Whatever the incentives governments can provide for conservation of the cork forests, they do not have significant impact without that driver of the rural economy – income! Market studies have shown that one of the best sources of income from these traditional Mediterranean landscapes is that from cork production. Production of high quality cork for wine stoppers is the most valuable to the farmer. Without the income from cork, many landowners have and will continue to destroy the mosaic of traditional habitat by planting dense monoculture forests or adopting industrial farming techniques.
If this hadn't been apparent, who would have cared that screw caps were replacing cork stoppers? It was not a concern for the major wine importers looking for minute reductions in the price per bottle in the UK and the States. It was not likely to be a worry for the large cork manufacturing companies. For them wine cork manufacture is often only a relatively small part of their business, they are diversified and could have transferred their capital into other sectors, like real estate. The wine producers may have been concerned, but have to respond to the wishes of the importer. Only the wine drinker may have been concerned about the product they are buying. Until now many may not even have noticed whether the bottle they are buying has a cork or a synthetic closure.
Well, now you and other wine drinkers have a good reason to decide whether to choose a bottle closed with a cork. The decision you take is important. Your personal contribution may be small but, because there are so many, the sum of all those decisions has the power to destroy or conserve a beautiful environment. Buy the bottle with a cork, pour yourself a glass, sit back and feel good about your contribution to keeping a place in the world for these rare animals to survive in.

Tannat wrote:
02.11.09 at 7:22 AM

Oh Steve,

I don't want the Lynx to die, but as I am running late, I will have to put my response to this on hold until i can get to an airport and sit down for a few minutes... suffice it to say you are backing into this problem the wrong way. And please don't let us find out Amorim is sponsoring your site in any way whatsoever...

Yours,
Tannat

Alder wrote:
02.11.09 at 10:40 AM

Steve,

You seem to be very informed about the subject, so I would love if you could answer a few (admittedly skeptical) questions that I've got about this subject.

1. True or False -- all the known habitats of the Iberian Lynx are protected under Spanish and European law already? (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iberian_lynx)

2. True or False -- the only breeding populations are in Spain, not in Portugal (see map of Lynx populations on page above which shows virtually NONE in Portugal).

3. True or False -- Assuming for a moment that there ARE in fact areas of cork production in Portugal that DO have Iberian Lynx in them, if the cork companies paid more for cork from farmers who farmed in these areas, then they would effectively be protected from the economic forces you describe.

I'd be willing to bet that the money that Amorim and other cork producers have spent trying to tell the world that screwcaps are dangerous to the kitties would not only be enough to produce such subsidies for the farmers whose forests MIGHT be lynx habitat, they'd probably be enough to BUY the land and set it aside for conservation once and for all. Why hasn't that happened if the cork industry is so concerned about the Lynx?

Finally, you're very wrong about something. Most consumers are INCREDIBLY conscious about the type of closures for their wine which is why there is such a resistance to the use of screwcaps. If there were not, 80% or more of the wines in the world would be closed with alternative closures for all the reasons outlined in the comments above. The fact that most consumers (in the US especially) associate screw-top wine closures with "jug wine" or cheap wine has prevented the majority of producers from switching to screwcaps for all but their top ageworthy wines (which will most likely always be closed with cork for reasons also described in the comments above).

Alder wrote:
02.11.09 at 10:49 AM

Whoops, I just answered my own #2 question by reading one of the papers on your site. ZERO Iberian Lynx in Portugal.

So we must be talking about cork forests in Spain?

Alder wrote:
02.11.09 at 10:54 AM

Sigh. OK Steve. You have more questions to answer.

Like:

1. How come the whitepaper on your site that outlines all the things that need to be done to protect the Lynx does not mention anything about taking action regarding the market for wine closures?

2. How do your reconcile your second most important action to prevent the extinction of the Iberian Lynx

"Protect existing and potential habitat from intensive agriculture and forestry developments,
dams, roads and urbanization."

with cork production? Is that not agriculture and forestry?

Tannat wrote:
02.11.09 at 11:29 AM

Steve,

Alder pretty much stole my thunder...

Yours,
Kasey

Tannat wrote:
02.11.09 at 12:18 PM

Steve?

Tannat wrote:
02.11.09 at 4:08 PM

Did Steve do a drive-by on us?

Alder wrote:
02.11.09 at 6:31 PM

Perhaps he is based in Europe.

02.12.09 at 2:27 PM

Alder and Tannat:

I see myself forced to return to this discussion after reading some of the recent comments left here...
As I wrote before I agree that:
- The cork industry needs to improve the quality of their products; and I agree that the "recent" appearance of the screwcaps forced the cork industry to improve the quality of cork stoppers.
- I also agree that appealing exclusively to environmental factors it's not the best strategy to conquer some consumers. But I still don't find it immoral. Is it immoral when Toyota uses environmental factors to sell hybrid cars?!
- And finally I agree that American wine consumers are not forced to care about the future of the Portuguese cork forests. But that doesn't mean that they shouldn't be informed about possible effects of the screwcaps industry on the cork industry and, by that, on the cork production.


Cork forests are crucial to prevent not only the disappearance of endangered species. They are much more important than that...They are absolutely crucial to prevent the desertification of Southern Portugal and Spain. This is not the opinion of Pedro or of some obscure employee of the Amorim Corporation. This is the opinion of several scientific studies made by several scientists of different countries.

To prevent the disappearance of these cork forests it's absolutely crucial that farmers continue to sell their cork to the industry. You can´t be so naïf thinking that you can solve this problem simply by buying thousands of acres and transforming them in National parks.
We are talking about thousands and thousands and thousands of acres...How many millions of Euros are needed to buy all these lands? How many millions of Euros are needed to manage these possible protected lands? What about the future of these farmers and their families? Would they all be hired to work as guides on these National Parks?
Is this how you solve all conservation problems in the US, by giving subsidies and buying lands? Isn't much more rational to keep the farmers on their lands promoting the conservation of the habitats at the same time that they make a living by selling their cork?!

But I insist...You don't have any moral obligation to prefer wines with cork stoppers because of this! But please don' insist that the problem isn't real or that's just a fabrication of the cork industry. You are denying a reality we see every single day and that's described on several reports made by unsuspected scientists. Or do you believe that every single scientist and university that defend the cork stoppers are controlled by the Amorim Corporation? I find it as offensive as thinking that everyone that defend screwcaps works to the lobby of the synthetic stoppers!

Alder wrote:
02.12.09 at 9:51 PM

Pedro,

This is not, and never was, a discussion about whether the environment would be better off if cork forests were preserved.

If Toyota, in the effort to sell more hybrid cars, started telling everyone that buying the 37 MPG Mini Cooper was killing poor black babies across the US (because, you know, exhaust particulates from cars like the Mini are responsible for child deaths every year in low-income communities located next to freeways) that would be the equivalent of what the cork companies are doing. And yes, it would be immoral.

Tannat wrote:
02.12.09 at 10:49 PM

Hey Pedro,

Nice to hear from you again. If I may...

"But I still don't find it immoral. Is it immoral when Toyota uses
environmental factors to sell hybrid cars?!"
Immoral? No. Ham-fisted? Cheap? Spurious? Dubious? Desperate? Dishonest?
Exploitative? Yes.

Does Toyota commission a "report" by Car & Driver that tells us we will kill
the American Mountain Lion if we drive Hondas (coincidentally their #1
market competitor?) - no.

Amorim does this. Regularly, and as far back as 2002, at least online.

"And finally I agree that American wine consumers are not forced to care
about the future of the Portuguese cork forests." - no one is forced to care
about anything, hence the whole free moral agency of humanity, by definition
- but there is a tinge of sarcasm/indictment in your phrase... And why single
out Americans, you should really be hazing those Kiwis, or has that country
been written off?

"But that doesn't mean that they shouldn't be informed about possible
effects of the screwcaps industry on the cork industry and, by that, on the
cork production." - heavy emphasis on the possible. I might also wish to
inform every reader of this blog that if they don't deposit at least five
figures worth of American currency into my PayPal account, there is a
possibility, I might harm someone.

But no one is arguing that the screwcap industry is putting a HUGE dent into
the cork industry. But guess what? For wines that don't require extended
aging, and are meant to be consumed soon, what is the better closure? You
already know the answer, so does Amorim.

Don't base ANY argument you wish to make about ANYTHING on possibilities,
that is called gambling. And the house ALWAYS wins.

"Cork forests are crucial to prevent not only the disappearance of
endangered species. They are much more important than that...They are
absolutely crucial to prevent the desertification of Southern Portugal and
Spain." - again Pedro, no one here denies that. No one. We truly and
honestly feel your pain on this. So leave the cork forests intact. If the
landowners don't care about the Iberian Lynx the way farmers in the US
didn't care about DDT use in the 70's - then some majestic creatures will
die and possibly face extinction as a whole. Laws will have to be enforced.
Businesses do not care about animals and land use. People will choose to
feed their children over a cat in the woods. I'd kill them all for my kids
if it were to come down to that. But then, it doesn't have to come down to
that does it? Maybe their industry is dead the way the steel industry in
Pennsylvania is dead, and we all have to cope. Businesses don't care about
communities left behind (see Detroit). They care about satisfying boards of
directors and fiscal viability. I may sound cynical, but if Amorim was
faced with ending their cork production and ceasing the harvesting of all
cork forests for the sake of the Iberian Lynx, what do you honestly,
honestly think they would do? I know. They'd spend even MORE money telling
you how well the Iberian Lynx is doing in captive breeding, in being
relocated to better, healthier habitats, etc... and if that didn't work they'd
turn on that kitty so fast his nine lives would be up in seconds. Amorim is
thanking God that they have even the most spiderlike thread of relativity
between their declining marketshare and the plight of a marketable animal.

"You can´t be so naïf thinking that you can solve this problem simply by
buying thousands of acres and transforming them in National parks." -
actually, it has been done before, so sure, we could think that. Also, we
could also kindly inform Amorim, Pedro, or anyone who will listen that they
have to walk the walk if they wish to talk the talk. I hear a LOT about
conservationism, when it comes to supporting Amorim's business model. But
what does Amorim put first? Their business model. They USE/PIMP the
Iberian Lynx to sway US to think screwcap=bad, cork=good. They are BOTH
bad/good in their own ways. The issue isn't as black and white as Amorim
would have you believe: Screwcaps are killing the Iberian Lynx.

IF Amorim wants to play that way (by that way I mean they wish to put the
secondary issue of conservationism in the limelight to support their primary
goal of market protection - and I dare you to say they are doing anything
but that) then why are they asking the market to behave any different?
Aren't they asking the buying public to put their tastes, their preferences,
even to adjust their spending habits, to support Amorim, via the lynx as a
proxy? Sacrifice a bottle here and there for the greater good, which we
happen to believe, conveniently enough, is OUR greater good. Does that make
any sense at all? Seems pretty duplicitous if you ask me, telling the
winemaker to put money second and conservationism first. Does Amorim donate
5-7% of its profits (the sum equal to industry established ratios of cork
failure) into some Iberian Lynx Offset fund? No they do not. Who is being
naïve now? And even so, if they were to do such a thing, they would do it
by conserving the very product that protects their bottom line - the elusive
cork forest and Iberian Lynx habitat overlaps (where are those again?)
But they still want a winemaker to run the risk that 1 in 12 bottles will be
the antithesis of a good introduction to his winery, his livelihood, and
scare off a potential lifelong customer, not because of poor winemaking, but
because he chose to use cork.

Pedro. Again.

No. One. Is. Discrediting. The. Value. Of. Cork.

Why does Amorim adopt the Iberian Lynx as a mascot? Why not a Floridian
Manatee?

Why does Amorim fund a WWF article, and then in subsequent reprints remove
the paragraph that states that they funded such campaigns?

Do you honestly think they are doing this for the betterment of "Miguel the
Cork Tree" or of Juan Q. Public in Spain/Portugal who harvests cork?

No. Money. Euros.

Winemakers do not choose screwcaps because they are irresponsible, ignorant,
or ambivalent to the environment. They do it so 1 in 12 bottles that they
bottle don't have to be flushed and that new buyers of their wine are not
turned away by a bad bottle - many of whom will not be savvy enough to
associate the flaw with the cork versus the wine. God knows winemakers for
YEARS have been begging that this problem be addressed, unfortunately Cork
had it so good for so long, that they didn't feel the need to address it.
Along came screwcaps. Now they feel the need, but it is too late - and even
still, with better cork quality (suddenly a call to arms on that front -
thank you screwcaps, and thank you competitive capitalist freemarkets) they
cannot completely remove this issue of cork failure.
"But please don' insist that the problem isn't real or that's just a
fabrication of the cork industry." - is the Iberian Lynx endangered? Yes.
That's about all you can do to support this claim.

Cork forests have not shrunk, in fact they have grown according to
Portuguese Forestry numbers. So the habitat shows no signs of shrinkage.
Fact.

Does the use of wine with screwcaps equate to the loss of habitat for the
kitty? How, if the numbers (acres of cork forest ) are growing DESPITE a
reduction in marketshare percentage?

"I find it as offensive as thinking that everyone that defend screwcaps
works to the lobby of the synthetic stoppers!" - the day the alternative
stoppers cartel comes out with a cooked report, an online mockudrama,
several years of recycled articles by respected sources that have admittedly
been funded outright or in cooperation with the screwcap cartel, the day
they do that and tell all buyers of wine with cork that they are killing
some beautiful creature (I nominate the Stone Marten, again) THEN you can
be offended.

Amorim will not sacrifice itself for the betterment of winemakers, their
number one consumer, why would they do it for a cat?

And if Amorim won't, why should we?

I'm still stunned that this issue even has steam. Granted I am adding to it
by continually posting, but again, Pedro, Jeez!

I do not know what you do for a living. But let's say I write for a living.
As an example.

MS Word, the longtime standard in word processing software, for decades, is
so poorly written, that no matter how well I craft and edit a story, when I
send it via email to my editors/publishers, it becomes corrupted 7% of the
time. Random commas, ridiculously poor verb tense shifts, txpos everywhere...

Now this better piece comes out, let's call it OpenOffice.org - and it is
cheaper, and it NEVER corrupts my files, so my editors don't look at me like
I'm a kid who ate too much lead paint, and is pretending to be a writer when
7% of the time I send them pure dribble.

Now instead of 1) fixing their problem or 2) acknowledging their software
has limitations that OO has fixed, Microsoft launches a multi-million dollar
ad campaign to inform people like me that using OpenOffice will put
thousands out of work, fill Seattle with homeless, and even cause the
Kestrel to go extinct because of all the nesting boxes that Microsoft has at
its Redmond campus.

What decision am I suppose to make? If my writing suffers to the point that
I can no longer secure work, I won't be an MS Word customer anyway, right?
But isn't that the more philanthropic route that they are trying to convince
me of? Or do I use the best tool for my job, and let Microsoft handle its
own problems?

Amorim owns cork forests. Amorim owns Iberian Lynx habitat, so it would
seem. Amorim cannot sell the cork it harvests because the cork is pissing
off its very customers who are no longer happy with such a failure rate.
These customers have found a better solution for them, a better tool for
their job. The Lynx is not their problem.
The Lynx is Amorim's adopted baby, and it will become Amorim's permanent
problem if they don't address the cork issue.

Or they can sell more cork flooring, and jack that markup closer to wine
closure levels.

Or they can get international, national, and regional law overturned so they
can uproot cork trees and plant soy or eucalyptus or whatever - and then
kill the kitty's habitat, as they had promised they would do if they lost
enough money to screwcaps. As even you suggest these poor farmers would be
forced to do if they lost the cork fight. They are not FORCED to do
anything. It would still be their choice, granted, a tough one considering,
now, all the attention that has been brought about because of this.

Or they could spend less on "distraction marketing" and more on R&D of
better cork harvesting and treatment techniques and reclaim some lost ground
in the cork fight.

Or they could donate some of that money to establishing a preserve (a huge
marketing coup in its own right) within some of these cork forests, these
overlaps, perhaps even making some sort of 100 year lease to the government,
as a show of their commitment to the protection of their favorite animal,
the Iberian Lynx.

You cannot shift the responsibility for poor products and poor land
management and threats of future change in law, land use, and socioeconomic
demise on the consumer when the industry is the real problem. Guilt
marketing never works in the long run. Quality, service, and value will
ALWAYS win.

Steve wrote:
02.14.09 at 1:22 AM

Tannat, I hope your flight got you home safely and would like to thank for your support for the conservation of the Iberian Lynx.
Firstly I would like to clear up your suspicion over sponsorship. Neither Amorim nor other wine or cork manufacturers have sponsored the SOS Lynx site. As you mention Amorim has supported some WWF research. Some funds for SOS Lynx have come via WWF from other Portuguese companies, but as far as I know none have interests in the wine or cork industry. Other funding has come from individuals living in Portugal. I know that many of them (like me) live in areas where the Iberian Lynx used to be seen and some of them are likely to be owners of land with cork trees.
Can you and Alder confirm that you have never received any free bottles of wine or other support from companies that sell or use synthetic stoppers?

Alder, I guess we’re operating on completely different time zones. Pedro seems to be in Europe, you and Tannat seem to be in the States. I’m on the other side of the Pacific, about 16 hours ahead of you, so thanks for your patience. I’m impressed with the time you have taken to research the subject – even if we don’t end up agreeing on everything
Here are some answers to your questions.
1. True or False -- all the known habitats of the Iberian Lynx are protected under Spanish and European law already? (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iberian_lynx)
Unfortunately the answer is FALSE. The phrase in the wiki “the Iberian lynx and its habitat are fully protected” is incorrect. The Iberian lynx is a legally protected species – that is correct, but of course that doesn’t protect it from road-kills or illegal hunting. Some areas where the lynx is still to be found, such as Doñana, are also protected. But these protected areas are relatively small compared to the lynx’s natural habitat and its natural range of only some twenty years ago.
2. True or False -- the only breeding populations are in Spain, not in Portugal (see map of Lynx populations on page above which shows virtually NONE in Portugal).
Unfortunately TRUE. Until recently there were breeding populations in both Spain and Portugal. In the last ten years, only populations in Spain have proven to have been breeding. Although there have been many unofficial sightings, there continues to be much debate about hard proof of the presence of the Iberian lynx in Portugal. However, the Portuguese and Spanish governments have now agreed on a conservation plan for the lynx. Over the last three years, the ex-situ reproduction programme in Spain has been successful. They hope to begin releasing animals to the wild later this year. A breeding centre has been built in southern Portugal and should receive breeding pairs from Spain later this year or next.
3. True or False -- Assuming for a moment that there ARE in fact areas of cork production in Portugal that DO have Iberian Lynx in them, if the cork companies paid more for cork from farmers who farmed in these areas, then they would effectively be protected from the economic forces you describe.
Neither True nor False. I’ve already mentioned that there is no hard proof of the presence of lynx in Portugal. However, they are notoriously difficult to observe and they can roam many kilometres, and are capable of crossing the whole width of Portugal. There continue to be reported sightings of individuals, so it is also not possible to assert that the lynx is extinct in Portugal. However, the breeding programme seems to be a success and over the next few years it is likely that reintroduction will start in areas where suitable habitat still exists.
Would the cork forests be protected if the cork companies paid more for the cork? I don’t think that is the question. The concern is not that they pay more for the cork, though no doubt the farmers would appreciate their good will! The concern is more that an entire industry will disappear; a centuries-old habitat will be destroyed; and maybe for reasons that are not really genuine ones. I’ll get back to that aside later on. I’m glad to hear that you consider most consumers are so conscious about the type of closures used for their wine. Maybe the projections made for the future of the cork industry will prove to be over pessimistic.
Alder, you also ask how to reconcile the second most important action to prevent the extinction of the Iberian Lynx "Protect existing and potential habitat from intensive agriculture and forestry developments, dams, roads and urbanization." with cork production? Is that not agriculture and forestry?
Yes, cork production is both agriculture and forestry. However, it is not intensive. In intensive forestry, for example of eucalyptus or pine, only one tree species is planted. Trees are planted close together, little light penetrates the cover, and there is very little secondary growth below the trees. Your photograph of a cork landscape demonstrates very clearly the difference. The cork trees are far apart, plenty of light reaches the ground, there are areas with scrub and bushes, and grass and other forage. The red colour of the trees in the photograph shows that the cork has just been harvested. It will take another nine years for the cork to grow to a sufficient thickness for the next harvest. Harvesting is done in the hot, dry time of year (the climate is very like southern California and southern Australia), so much of the grass cover has died back. This type of land use leaves natural scrubby areas surrounded by open grass lands. It is perfect landscape for rabbits. They have plenty of grass and forage in close proximity to cover.
Pedro has made some pretty relevant comments about the cost of land purchase, subsidies and conservation. Over twenty percent of Portugal’s land area has been declared as being of conservation interest, under the European Agenda 2000 initiative. However, that does not mean that the people living there are given a free ride. For many there are just more rules about what they can do with their land. They still have to earn their own living. In California I guess you have similar experiences with logging and forest regulations.

Amorim’s campaign
I am fully in support of using information about environmental impacts for marketing purposes. In the past, we consumers have got very little information about the environmental effects of our purchase options. I don’t know about the States, but from reading Time and Newsweek I guess it is the same as in Europe. All vehicle adverts now have to show average fuel consumption and CO2 production per km, many like to show their passenger safety rating. Fuel companies are demonstrating how much they are doing to invest in sustainable alternative sources of energy. Cigarette manufacturers show the tar content and health impact. If you remember back to the 1980s, information about lead in fuel, and the insidious poisoning of children living in areas close to freeways, eventually resulted in complete substitution of fuel with lead additives.
The way Amorim has presented its case may be emotive, tongue-in-cheek, and light-hearted, – yes, but from what I have seen it hasn’t been either dishonest or exploitative. It has definitely captured the attention of many wine drinkers and has allowed us to have some serious discussion about the impact of the choices that wine consumers take every day throughout the world.

Does taint come just from the cork?
I can’t compete with Alder or Tannat’s knowledge about the wine industry and the causes of off-flavours in wines. So perhaps they would come up with some up to date information and objective research on the following observations about taint and the pressure to move to replace cork. Firstly, here’re some conclusions I came to after investigating the publically available literature back in 2004:
“There are three main driving forces behind the shift to synthetic closures – product quality, cost of packaging and product differentiation. Wine retailers and producers have claimed that poor quality cork stoppers are the cause of wine taint – quoting values of up to 25% of wine production being tainted. Such high rates have not been supported by independent surveys, which put the overall rate of taint at under 4%. The higher values may be a misperception derived from occasional returns to producers. Furthermore, the majority of cases of taint are not attributable to cork – they appear to be caused by poor wine making, bottling or storage. The taint attributable to cork, generally that in which TCA is detected in the wine, is found in only 0,5 to 1,5% of bottles. However, cork is not the only source of TCA – it has been found to originate from the oak barrels or oak chippings used to mature wine, as well as from the use of chlorine for disinfection and wood preservatives and other construction materials.
However, the more important driving forces are likely to be the motivation to reduce product costs and to differentiate wines in the overall market. The retailers, synthetic stopper manufactures and wine producers have identified taint (and more recently “youthful lifestyles”) as a means of introducing the new closures to customers and of differentiating their wines in existing markets.”
Secondly, in Portugal I’ve drunk locally produced wines regularly and can’t remember a single bottle that had to be discarded – all with cork stoppers. In northern Europe where wine is imported over long distances, I can remember poor quality wine being a relatively frequent experience. Maybe the cause of poor quality wine there and in countries where bottles have to travel long distances is not the cork but the handling. The blog article you recommend http://www.organicwinejournal.com/index.php/2009/01/why-the-trip-kills-it/ suggests just that.

Better wines for drinking
I too hope that before Amorim launched its latest media campaign that they also did plenty of R&D into improving the product, quality control in harvesting and manufacture, and in keeping down the costs of their products. Somehow I think they did. Such a campaign would only be of value if there were some real improvements to back it up and wine drinkers really are sure of getting better products.
During the 1990s, the European Union financed research into the reasons for taint and the cork industry then established a corresponding code of practice. I can remember my cork producing neighbours grumbling about how they could no longer stack the raw cork on the ground or the buyer might reject it. Improvements in an industry that has a nine year production cycle obviously takes time. Wine consumers may only see the results years later.
Early this decade, Professor Michael E. Porter of Harvard carried out a study of the cork industry cluster for the Portuguese government. I bet he made some very pertinent recommendations about how to develop the industry and how to protect it against a marketing threat from the synthetic closure manufacturers. Maybe we are now seeing some of the results of that R&D and market planning.
If wine drinkers get better and cheaper wines, Portuguese and Spanish land-owners are able to maintain their cork forests, and the Iberian lynx is no longer at risk of extinction we’ve all won out. A good bottle of tinto from the Alentejo (with a cork stopper) will help compensate having to listen to Rob Schneider pretending to look for Miguel.

02.14.09 at 11:02 AM

Alder and Tannat,
Just for courtesy...I´m a biologist that works as a Science teacher.
I have no connection with Amorim or any other cork factory/corporation. I know that Amorim doesn't really care about the Iberian lynx. But I do...And that´s my cause. Unfortunately I also know that if the cork industry loses this fight the total area occupied with cork trees will dramatically decrease in the future, with dramatic economical and environmental consequences for Portugal and Spain.
I do believe in free markets and I'm well aware that, thank God, quality always, sooner or later, prevails. And that should be the primary goal of the cork industry: improving the quality of cork stoppers and other cork alternative applications.
Unfortunately (or not) that depends exclusively upon the cork industry and not in idealistic guys like me.
For some of these reasons, as a wine enthusiastic, I will always prefer a wine with cork stopper over a wine with screwcaps; it's a "risk" I'm willing to take. But of course I cannot (or even want to...) force anyone to think or act like me.
P.S. - Even when I'm being sarcastic or ironic I have no "anti-American" feelings. There is just one American I don’t appreciate and, thank God, he´s no longer yours President! ;)

Tannat wrote:
02.14.09 at 10:55 PM

Pedro,

So if you know all of this, then it seems you should go to the source of the problem, the people who 1) hold the land, 2) the people who decide whether the cork stays or goes, 3) the people who are in charge of selling the cork, and finally 4) the people who enforce the laws that will insure the Lynx remains unmolested even if the cork industry were to disappear altogether.

If those people cannot “get it right” then we should all be worried for the Iberian Lynx. Because we all have seen what happens when animals, endangered or not, get in the way of profits.

By insisting on screwcaps versus cork in your wine (and hoping we all do the same) for the sake of the Lynx, you are losing sight of the bigger issue here, and you are effectively polishing the brass on the Titanic.
I appreciate your cause. I really do. I do not want to see any animal suffer, let alone become extinct.

But so far, you seem to be a person who wholeheartedly believes that if cork loses more marketshare, the Lynx will suffer. And you are right. But I think we agree on that for two different reasons.

I think you agree with that assertion based on the idea that scrwecaps cut away at cork’s marketshare, and in so doing, will reduce the need for cork trees, which will reduce the need to care for cork forests, which will reduce income for cork farmers, who will in turn rip up cork trees for crops that can make them money, which will come about eventually by way of pressure from these factions against the governments of Spain and Portugal who will rescind these laws in the name of national fiscal concerns. All of which is true. And a whole new crop of studies will show how well the Lynx will adapt to whatever new crop they choose to implement.

I agree with that scenario because Amorim (and more notably, its farmers and scientists) has said that if they lose money, they will rip up those trees and plant something else. Which is also true.

You are correct when you admit that, unfortunately, this depends on the cork industry. The Lynx is unfortunate in that it has found itself living in areas that are owned by cork producers. The primary cause of income from cork harvests overshadows the secondary issue of the Iberian Lynx. While the issue of the Iberian Lynx SHOULD be primary, and the income of cork harvests should be secondary, life, in any country, yours or mine, doesn’t work this way. If it did, then we wouldn’t be drilling for oil in parklands here, and your Lynx territory wouldn’t be threatened because an industry is losing marketshare.

But does the future of the Lynx depend EXCLUSIVELY on the cork industry? Aren’t their governments involved here? Both national and international agencies set up to prevent such things as ecological disasters at the hands of corporations? It seems to me that if you, Pedro, a staunch supporter of the Iberian Lynx, chooses to take the track of “buy cork regardless – even if it is inferior, and even if the company that makes it doesn’t care about the Lynx, because if you don’t buy their product, they will let the Lynx suffer” – by choosing that track, you tell me, you show me that you don’t really believe that those laws will be able to stand up if and when cork loses serious money, and that land sits unprofitable for any length of time. You tell me by that kind of thinking that the only way to handle this is to do what Amorim wants and buy more cork. And that worries me, as it should worry the Lynx.

Cork needs to address the number one issue facing its market: failure rate.

Once cork addresses that, they will not need to worry about carbon-offsets, bio-diversity studies, WWF articles, sustainable studies, and the millions of dollars spent on marketing.

But the fact that they spend millions on marketing the “other” advantages of cork (and the evils of screwcaps) tells me one of two things:

Either they 1) cannot, despite exhaustive research, viably address the issue of cork failure in a cost-effective manner, or 2) are simply not willing to and would rather dump money into marketing agencies to proselytize the cork cause for them.

I have a hunch it is a little bit of both. If cork had a solution to the failure rate issue, there would be billboards in Napa, two-page fold outs in every trade magazine in print, and booths at every wine event between the poles telling us this. But they cannot yet. In fact, we may have to admit that they cannot ever resolve this. We may have taken cork to the maximum that it is capable of reaching. And if that is the case, then the cork battle is lost, and then cork resorts to distraction marketing as we have seen for the last decade. This is MY fear. And if this is true, then you and your countrymen, should you wish to see these cork forests left intact, will have to figure out some way of keeping those forests intact. The farmers will want their land to be productive, Amorim will want its revenue stream to keep flowing, and the government will (as most do) steer legislature in favor of those with the loudest lobbyists, to which the Lynx will fade into footnote.

I feel that this is what it all boils down to. The Lynx will soon shift from poster-boy for the cork movement to headache for the cork industry, if the marketshare falls, and if the issue of cork failure cannot be addressed.

It sucks to be the Lynx right now. The only happy ending I see coming from this is if cork figures out how to address the failure rate. If cork sales plummet, and those farmers who own acres upon acres of a crop that is worthless, yet protected by law, they will fight to have those laws repealed. And since cork is spending millions to counter-market screwcaps, to show screwcaps are wrong in so many ways, and to inform us of the impending doom of the world if the cork industry were to collapse, then it seems to me that cork cannot address that issue at all, at least not in a cost-effective manner that fulfills expectations of its investors, be they stockholders or farmers. All of the money being spent on distraction marketing will then be funneled to lobbyists and campaign contributions to insure that votes go their way.

And hey, you can poke fun at Americans all you want, I only happen to be one by the pure random act of being born there, though I enjoy dual citizenship with Germany, so, at worst I’m only half-offended (which I am not offended by what you said at all – seriously, I have thick skin, it comes with the territory.)

02.18.09 at 7:43 AM

Tannat,


I have no problem saying I agree with much of what you wrote on your last commentary.
I also think we’re (finally) reaching somewhere…I mean finally we are beginning to understand the way the other thinks about this subject.
But I’m still optimistic about the future of cork stoppers. First of all I have to believe in the ability of the scientists that are working to improve the quality of the product; second I believe that there will always be an enormous amount of idealist persons like me that prefer a natural product over a synthetic solution.
I’m incapable of image a situation like drinking my wine, on a restaurant, from a tetra pack or any other perfect solution with zero oxidation. But not all are “emotive”, “romantic” and “environmental “ reasons to prefer cork over synthetics (although these are important factors for many wine consumers and even for some wine producers).
The fact that cork stoppers have unique characters that allow a better evolution of bottled wine, for example, proves that there is still a possibility for cork stoppers (but of course it is inevitable, at least for now, that cork stoppers will continue to lose markets for synthetic solutions).
So let’s wait to see what the future will bring…But I agree that will be hard times for the lynx and even for cork forests.
Being a Portuguese, this “romantic view”, is something that comes with the territory (by using your words). I guess it’s not always easy to understand for someone more rational, like someone from Northern Europe or from the US.
Perhaps the future will allow us, someday, to continue this conversation around a table and drinking a fine bottle of wine. I just have one condition…it has to be wine bottled with a cork stopper!

Miguel Rodrigues wrote:
03.06.09 at 1:26 PM

Dear all

To see and think about. Please see documentary from BBC "Cork: Forest in a Bottle" on the link below:

http://vimeo.com/3357193

Miguel Rodrigues wrote:
03.06.09 at 2:57 PM

...sorry this version is mostly in Potuguese. But, from the images and the parts in english, you can take alot of important information.

troy wrote:
03.17.09 at 9:56 AM

Wow - there is more misinformation in the comments than anywhere else I've seen before. To Clarify, Eucalyptus is NOT indiginous to Portugal, and it happens to breed like a weed.

The writer of this feed and all those who agree and rant on about how bad it is to save an ecosystem must be the same people who own 3 SUV's and still haven't heard of low energy consumption light bulbs.

The issue here is simple. It is not just about the cork industry. It is about Global warming and our general unwillingness to accept that we all need to make changes.

For Gods sake, haven't you seen THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH?
If not, why not?
If not, SHUT UP! WATCH IT and quit denying the obvious. This issue is not for the "so called" tree huggers any longer. It is real and it is documented and we will all likely face the consequences due to the ignorance exhibited within this forum.
- here is the link:

http://www.climatecrisis.net

Using Natural Cork is just one of many simple ways to make a difference in YOUR OWN personal day to day lifestyle.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that cork has the lowest environmental impact of all closures available. And the fact that a forest actually counters greenhouse gas effects by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and providing Oxygen for the globe is pretty rudimentary as well. So why all the winging, complaining and fuss? We are graced with one of the most intricate brains in the animal kingdom, yet still so many cannot grasp simple principals and truths.

Even to those wine snobs that say that there is so much tainted wine because of cork, PLEASE do your research. The situation is improved to the point that taint in wines closed with natural cork is as low as the percentage of over-oxidized wines closed under synthetics and other new problems that screw caps are presenting to different wine varieties.

You simply can't label all problems in wine with the CORK TAINT label. It simply isn't correct. At one time it was because it was the only closure, but now there is an entirely new can of worms.

Be honest, can you differentiate between an over oxidized wine and TCA taint? Can you differentiate between a good wine and a bad wine. Do you recognize Reduction in many screwcap wines.

Could you differentiate between these problems in a blind taste test of the same vintage sealed under the 3 different main closure types?

It is my opinion that you can't! So why not admit the obvious advantages inherent in natural cork? That way we can feel good about doing something good for the future, for our children, however small you may think that difference to be.

Enjoy your wines, insist on cork and join the new socially responsible era and perhaps move the discussion on to likes and dislikes of particular vineyards and varietals instead
I think we can all agree that this is what we enjoy about wines in the first place.

Thanks for reading and I sincerely hope that you consider the points here-in

Alder wrote:
03.17.09 at 10:19 AM

Troy,

You'd be much more likely to have people "consider the points here-in" if you weren't a jerk about it. Yelling at people to shut up and watch is not likely to change any minds, nor make people even willing to listen.

But, most importantly, you completely misread this article. This IS just about the cork industry. The point of this article had nothing to do with concern about global warming (which is real and a problem) or the inconvenient truth (which I've seen twice and love) or wether ecosystems should be preserved (they should be). The point is whether a) it's morally acceptable to suggest that by buying screwcapped wines wine drinkers are endangering the Iberian lynx (it's not) and b) whether that is in fact true (it's not).

And with regards to your "opinions" about distinguishing taints in wine and the fact that people can't tell the difference between oxidation and cork taint, a bottle closed with cork vs. a bottle closed with screwcap, you clearly don't know what you're talking about.

Miguel Rodrigues wrote:
03.17.09 at 3:08 PM

Alder

Sorry, but I have to completely disagree with you.

a) it's morally acceptable to suggest that by buying screwcapped wines wine drinkers are endangering the Iberian lynx. YES, IT IS. Even when we by a simple bottle of shampoo, we have to be responsible for that action and the impact it can (or not) in the environment. It is called "consumers responsibility". You can't just by and drink what ever you like and try to convince your self (and others) that choice has no repercussion at all. This is what I call "denial". Like in "I don't want the bitterness of being aware of my choice's impacts, to spoil my pleasure".

b) whether that [buying screwcapped wines wine drinkers are endangering the Iberian lynx] is in fact true. YES, IT IS. For everything that has been written and shown here, yes it is. It is shown, even, by the most simple and evident common sense, here where the problem is really happening right now (and not a hole ocean away), besides being proved by a large number of scientific reports.

Alder wrote:
03.17.09 at 3:24 PM

Miguel,

Of course, you are free to disagree.

But we are circling back on ground already tread in this argument. Buying screwcapped wine doesn't endanger the Lynx. There is no DIRECT CAUSATION between the sales of screwcapped wine and the destruction of Lynx habitat. There is, at best, an incredibly tenuous CORRELATION between the existence and popularity of screwcapped wine and destruction of Lynx habitat, but as any scientist, mathematician, or philosopher will tell you, there is a huge difference between correlation and causation. Your argument is based on faulty logic, which I have spelled out in previous comments.

The tenuous correlation that exists, if it exists, is so indirect that it makes laughable the notion that simply by reducing the number of screwcapped wines that are sold, ANY real difference would be made to the problem. For instance, I don't think it would make even half as much impact as say, taking every dollar that the cork companies have spent promoting the research papers you refer to (or even a tiny fraction of the budget of that stupid Rob Schneider video) and using that money to buy up habitat or giving it to conservation groups.

Which is, of course, where the morality comes in. If the cork companies (and environmentalists alike) could be solving the problem in a much more effective way by taking the money (and time and energy) they are spending trying to make wine drinkers feel bad for choosing screwcapped wine, and spending it somewhere else, then that makes their campaign immoral.

Miguel Rodrigues wrote:
03.17.09 at 3:45 PM

Alder

And I thought all that have been said above, proves just the opposite.

The impact of synthetic stoppers in this kind of humanized, but sustainable, ecosystem can be huge. Even much more directly than the impact, on water and soil, of choosing biological agriculture products . But even if it was as insignificant as you say, your way of thinking is the same as saying: why do I have to switch off my TV at night? It won't have any impact on the whole planet's climate.

Alder wrote:
03.17.09 at 3:50 PM

Miguel,

Turning off the TV directly reduces electricity demand, which directly reduces the amount of coal burned (if your electricity comes from coal), which directly reduces the amount of C02 in the atmosphere. That is causation.

There is no such direct link between purchasing a screwcapped wine and the destruction of Lynx habitat.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation

Tannat wrote:
03.17.09 at 3:58 PM

*sigh*

ATTN: ALL THOSE WHO THINK THAT THERE EXISTS A DIRECT CORRELATION TO DRINKING WINE WITH SCREWCAPS AND THE PENDING EXTINCTION OF THE IBERIAN LYNX...

please scroll up and read ALL the posts here before you spout off about the "direct link" and ignore all of the national and international laws that the CORK INDUSTRY would have to lobby for the GOVERNMENT to break before a lynx' "native" habitat would be endangered.

Again,
*sigh*

Alex wrote:
04.05.09 at 8:54 AM

I would like to point out, that the community can not just rip out the trees and plant something else to feed their family, as the soil is of poor quality, and you get soil erosion and nothing can grow in the soil. The cork trees are able to grow in poor soil.

Brendan wrote:
06.28.09 at 8:13 PM

Other things to consider... how are corks treated during the manufacturing process? Is this environmentally friendly, including the new, supposedly 100% TCA free Diam corks? Cork bottles also have either an aluminium or plastic capsule over the top. Are the manufacture of these environmentally friendly? And the manufacture of Aluminium screwcaps... how much pollution in production and recycling? Which is best? How do we find out?

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Most Recent Entries

US 2014 Vintage - Early, Fast, Eventful Vinography Images: Big Shadow Come Explore The Essence of Wine with Me in Healdsburg: October 30th, 2014 Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 5, 2014 Another Idiotic California Law Screws Wineries Vinography Images: Vineyard Reflections The Fake Tongue Illusion and Wine Tasting 2014 Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting: October 21, San Francisco Cool Beauty: Tasting the Wines of the Western Sonoma Coast Vinography Images: Shaggy Companions

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.