Thursday, January 18, 2007

Do you think you're helping the environment by buying wine in screw top bottles?

Photo of cork tree in Alentejo, Portugal
As I leafed through the January – February 2007 Audubon Magazine while I waited at my dentist’s office, I saw what looked like an interesting article titled Cork Screwed.

Not knowing much about where cork comes from, I had assumed that it was better for the environment if I bought wine with a screw top or synthetic stopper.

As I perused the article, I learned that cork is stripped from trees, but the trees live and produce new cork. In fact, if wineries stop using cork stoppers, vast tracts of cork trees could easily be torn down to make way for development or other uses.

From the article: “Because the native cork-oak woodlands around the western Mediterranean were never completely cleared, they still have some of the richest biological diversity in the Mediterranean,” says Jose Tavares, Portugal program manager for the U.K.-based Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

They’ve been preserved because they provide an invaluable source of income for the farmers who own them. But 70 percent of cork revenues come from the wine industry….

Wine drinkers need to know about the role of the montados [cork oak woodlands]. If they know that cork is sustainable, that it is a natural product, that it supports biodiversity, and so on, they will insist on natural cork.”

The full article is available at the link above and is well worth reading because it takes you right into those Portuguese mantados. It is likely to convince you, too, that these forests and the way of life for the tiradores [cork strippers] are worth saving.

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