Vine Talk: Campaign promotes wine corks over screwcaps

Tue Sep 7, 2010 10:49am EDT
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Adam Lechmere is editor of,, the web arm of Decanter, the leading British wine magazine. The opinions expressed are his own.

By Adam Lechmere

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The cork industry has mounted a new campaign called I Love Natural Cork, that invites consumers to pledge to buy more wine sealed with natural cork stoppers.

"Natural cork in your wine bottle does more than just preserve and improve the quality and character of your wine. It preserves a centuries-long way of life in the rural communities of the Mediterranean cork oak forests, its incredible wildlife as well as the planet by absorbing CO2," the campaign, which is backed by Britain's Prince Charles, claims.

The statement's sentiments are as suspect as its syntax. It demonstrates once again that the cork industry's grasp on the realities of public relations is as shaky as ever.

Natural cork now accounts for 69 percent of the 18 billion wine closures sold last year, with screwcaps taking 11 percent and plastic corks 20 percent. Ten years ago, over 95 percent of bottles used natural cork. Natural cork is being supplanted as a stopper for all but a top tier of the most expensive wines.

The essence of the campaign is that the harvesting of cork is a sustainable practice under threat. The move to screwcaps would destroy ancient ecosystems. In short, the cork industry is appealing to our emotions to convince us to support a stopper that almost the entire wine industry agrees is not the best closure for 99 percent of wines.

It is absurd to seal a bottle that will be drunk within hours of purchase with a natural stopper that has a failure rate of between one and six percent, depending on whom you talk to. In no other industry would this be tolerated.

Winemakers like Peter Gago at Australia's Penfolds, makers of Grange, agree that cork is best for the 'small niche' of top reds that may be cellared for many decades.   Continued...

<p>Corks of Chateau Canon red wine (First great wine of Saint Emilion) are stored in a cellar in Saint Emilion, southwestern France, November 6, 2007. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau</p>