I hear this subject brought up frequently. Are our cork forests in danger of being destroyed? In a word, NO.

I’m not sure why there has been so much talk about running out of cork. First of all, cork, which is made from tree bark, is a renewable resource. When everything else is moving away from synthetic and towards sustainable, why is there a movement in the opposite direction for corks? There are some concerns for these forests, mostly in Portugal and Spain. They must be maintained and controlled. But the simple truth is that synthetic corks cost about 3 times as much as natural cork. Price drives the market. If there were a shortage of natural cork the price would skyrocket.

The movement against corks may have more to do with side effects than sustainability. Corks can taint the flavour of the wine. It’s estimated that about 2 out of every 100 bottles of wine sealed with cork, will be tainted with the musty/corky flavour that ruins a bottle of wine. There are “better” ways to seal a bottle. The screw cap will not taint any bottles of wine. However, it is perceived as a closure for “inferior” wines. A stigma many wineries are trying hard to shake by bottling good quality wine under cap. Synthetic corks also have a zero rate of spoilage, but both the screw cap and the synthetic cork lack the ability to gently oxidize the wine during aging. This slight oxidation actually improves the flavour, so wine that is being aged is better under a natural cork. Screw caps also lack that celebratory “pop” that starts Pavlov’s dogs salivating :-)

Blog provided by Ray Vezeau, owner of Chateau Vezeau Wines a ferment on premises winery in Brooklin, ON.