You may have noticed that some of the products we review at Life Goggles are sent to us by Big Green Smile. Well the team there are always up to something and Ben Wrigley has written a ‘corking’ article for us (sorry for the bad pun!).
“The team at Big Green Smile it has to be said are rather fond of their wine and so with the subject close to our hearts we decided to find out a bit more behind the story of the cork, which it seems is fast disappearing from our favourite tipple and there is growing concern for the natural habitats from which the cork comes.
“Cork comes from the Cork Oak Tree, quercus suber, and they are harvested by hand by skilled workers every nine years once the cork trees have reached an age of 25. Large parts of the Mediterranean rely on cork for their income with Portugal accounting for 70% of world production of which over 80% is for wine stoppers – that is 15 billion stoppers!
“The habitat of the Cork Oak is a wonderfully diverse habitat providing a natural habitat for both farmers to graze their sheep and goats as well as for a large variety of insects, birds and mammals including Barbary deer, Europe’s entire population of wintering cranes and the endangered Iberian lynx.
“What is currently a poetic example of industry living in harmony with the natural world is under threat from the rise of the screw top and the synthetic cork. Where man has for generations nurtured and lived alongside the Cork Oak and realised an income for entire communities, the rise of the synthetic cork now places this at risk.
“The cork forests of Portugal, or Montados, are already in decline as income from cork farming drops and younger generations leave the countryside. When the Montados are no longer used for cork farming and land use changes, old pastures become scrubland, reducing bio-diversity and stealing valuable food habitat from some of the region’s endangered species.
“The rise of the synthetic cork has been down to them not drying out and that they do not run the risk of contamination and cork taint – trichloroanisole. In recent years however, natural cork producers have hit back and developed methods that remove trichloroanisole from natural cork. Although a screw top or synthetic cork may be perfectly suitable for corking wines, unless you wish them to age there are overwhelming environmental reasons for opting for the natural cork. Not only will your choices help maintain a fantastic example of sustainable farming and help preserve the habitat on which many species depend, the natural cork has uses when recycled and is of course bio-degradable, unlike its oil based cousin.
“With so much at stake we think the choice is simple! Next time you are in the wine merchants, supermarket or off licence opt for those wines with the natural cork.”