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OkeeDon
01-10-2007, 02:03 PM
It's always surprising to learn how some of the most unexpected things are inerconnected. Who would suspect that whether or not a wine bottle uses a cork stopper or a synthetic stopper (or screw top) would relate to the diversity of birds in Portugal?

The latest issue of the Audobon Society magazine explains that cork oak trees in Portugal are essential for the habitat of a diverse population of birds as well as other wildlife and environmental concerns. There is an interesting discussion of how cork is harvested. Cork (the thick bark on cork oak trees) cannot be harvested until the tree is over 25 years old, and only once every 10 years thereafter on average. Some of these trees are hundreds of years old. However, if the economics of the cork market are disturbed, there are other crops that will replace these trees -- and developers are showing increased interest in the land.

Over 80% of the cork is processed into wine stoppers. Only about 16% of the cork, of lesser quality, is used for bulleting boards, flooring, etc. However, many wineries are switching to synthetic stoppers or screw tops. If too many bottlers change, the market for cork will collapse, and the habitat be lost.

Wineries have switched to synthetic for two reasons. The simplest reason is that synthetic stoppers are cheaper -- about $.08 instead of $.30 on average. The other reason is because of "cork taint", a bacteria that was growing on cork stoppers that could affect the taste of the wine. However, that has been almost totally controlled with new procedures in cork stopper production, and is no worse than synthetic.

Because of the foil over the stopper, it may be necessary to scratch the top on unfamiliar bottles to see whether it's cork or synthetic before making a purchase.

All of that boils down to music for my ears -- one more reason to drink lots of wine! By doing so, I'll be helping to preserve the little birdies in Portugal. It's not often that I can help the environment and have so much fun doing it!

Doc
01-10-2007, 02:23 PM
Good idea Don. I think I'll support the birdies in Portugal tonight ...and maybe tomorrow night too. :thumb:

Melensdad
01-10-2007, 02:39 PM
Don, I read, with great fascination, your information, but I'm not sure that all if it is accurate. I am one of those folks who buys wine by the case. My observation of the wine market is that different types of wines use different types of stoppers.

For example, wines that are best enjoyed early in their life and that spoil if kept for more than a few years are most often sealed with a composite cork stopper, synthetic stopper or a screw top. Reislings are the most common of the fine wines that are often found with a screw top. An expensive Reisling is acceptable to buyers if it has a non-cork stopper. However, wines that are held for years are not acceptable to buyers if they do not have a full cork stopper. Wines with higher tannin content are often aged in bottles for years, or decades, and for those wines nothing but a natural solid cork can be acceptable.

Another issue that must be considered is that wines are becoming much more an global in nature. Australian wines are a long way from Portugal where the best corks come from.

I'm actually a fan of the Audobon Society, but I think their message is only focusing on PART of the story.

OkeeDon
01-10-2007, 03:28 PM
I don't know how accurate the article is, or whether they are telling the whole story or not, it seemed pretty complete and well-researched to me. Judge for yourself, here is a link to the entire article:
http://audubonmagazine.org/features0701/habitat.html

To quote from just a portion of it....
Despite cork producers’ quality-control improvements, however, cork’s market share is falling. While it is estimated that about 65 percent of U.S. winemakers use cork stoppers, only 50 percent of Australian wines are now sealed with natural cork, as are a mere 20 percent of New Zealand wines. Worldwide, says Martins, sales of natural cork are down. Portuguese cork exports to Australia and the United States, for example, dropped in value from 142 million euros in 2001 to 108 million euros in 2004—a 24 percent decline. Industry fears about TCA can account for only part of this shortfall, experts say. Other factors are also at play. For one thing, most wineries have improved their crushing equipment, reducing astringency from seeds and stems, resulting in wines that can be drunk young, which means they don’t have the same need for a high-quality stopper. For another, some winemakers believe that the consistency of a synthetic stopper will make their wine taste more consistent, bottle after bottle. Then consider the economics: Natural cork is simply more expensive. A solid natural cork costs 30 cents, on average; a plastic cork costs as little as 6 cents.

Also, while different types of wine may use different types of stoppers, I believe their point is that the market is changing and more wineries are using synthetic. I don't think they're advocating that one should reduce their consumption of traditional screw-top wines, but that one should try not to encourage wineries who have chosen to change to synthetic.

Melensdad
01-10-2007, 03:35 PM
Don, the portion you quoted confirms what I wrote.
wines that can be drunk young, which means they don’t have the same need for a high-quality stopper
Many of the wines from Australia and New Zealand are simple table wines, wines that will never see storage or be aged. That alone accounts for the fact that a lower % of their wines need the cork.

OkeeDon
01-10-2007, 06:07 PM
I guess I'm just confused about your reaction to what I wrote. Are you going to try to save the little birdies or not?

daedong
01-10-2007, 06:29 PM
An interesting read Don. One learns to expect the unexpected in this world.
One of the main reasons from moving away from cork is due to the increased tainting from poorer quality cork. Bob it is very arguable about wines intended for long-term storage and the use of cork. Oxygenation is what improves some wines, It is often argues that there is enough oxygen in the bottle to do this so wines will mature with screw caps or synthetic cork without the risk of cork taint. The issue of cork verses plastic in my view is one of tradition and nothing else.

daedong
01-10-2007, 06:39 PM
Many of the wines from Australia and New Zealand are simple table wines, wines that will never see storage or be aged. That alone accounts for the fact that a lower % of their wines need the cork. Many of our wines are amongst the best in the world
http://www.peterlehmannwines.com/article_detail.aspx?p=32&id=61

Melensdad
01-10-2007, 07:06 PM
Vin, I did not mean to imply that the wines are crappy wines. The reality is that of the Australian and New Zealand wines I have access to here, a large % of them are varietals that should be consumed early in their life. If the wine is to be consumed within 1 to 3 (maybe even 4) years of when it is bottled, then there is no reason at all to use a natural cork.

Many of the better Reislings, Gewurtzentramieners, and Pinot Grigios are coming from OZ. No question of the quality. But also no need to let them age. In fact aging them destroys them. These are all simple table wines and they will never be cellared for aging.


The issue of cork verses plastic in my view is one of tradition and nothing else.
I think there is a large amount of snob appeal too.

OkeeDon
01-10-2007, 07:12 PM
...If the wine is to be consumed within 1 to 3 (maybe even 4) years of when it is bottled, then there is no reason at all to use a natural cork.(Emphasis added)

Dang it, you're still forgetting the little birdies! You must be one of them folks who doesn't care about our feathered friends.

Melensdad
01-10-2007, 07:13 PM
(Emphasis added)

Dang it, you're still forgetting the little birdies! You must be one of them folks who doesn't care about our feathered friends.
I like them BBQ'd. :hide:

daedong
01-10-2007, 07:39 PM
Don, the little birdies around the world are all in danger of losing there habit. Humans are master destroyers, it is one thing that we excel in.

This issue maybe another argument for a carbon tax.:hide:

Bob, not all but most, white wines do not shelve well.

Melensdad
01-10-2007, 08:34 PM
Bob, not all but most, white wines do not shelve well.
True, but some are best at only 1 or 2 years, others should sit for several years 4 to 10. It is a waste of a cork to use it on the very young wines. I am a big fan of Reislings. I'd say that 80% of those that I buy do not have full natural corks, some have composite corks, most are synthetic. Reislings at 3 years old are already getting old and a 4 year old is past its prime. Chardonnay, on the other hand, is often better at 5 or 6+ years and is often raw at 2, 3 or even 4.

bczoom
01-10-2007, 11:32 PM
Re. the birds, if/as I recall correctly, 99.9% of all species that have existed in this planet are extinct. 99.5% were gone before homo sapiens even existed. The birds probably lived before we bottled wine. They need to work something out. So if we stop harvesting the cork, what happens? What did they do before we harvested cork?

As for beverage, I believe most wine I drink was properly aged... Bottled last Thursday. :burp:

Junkman
01-10-2007, 11:37 PM
Don't forget the Thunderbird...........

















































































WINE:yum: :burp:

OkeeDon
01-11-2007, 12:10 AM
Re. the birds, if/as I recall correctly, 99.9% of all species that have existed in this planet are extinct. 99.5% were gone before homo sapiens even existed. True. We wonder about civilizations that existed 4,000 years ago. How many civilizations existed in the 50 million or so years prior to that? I bet this poor planet was home to advanced civilizations at least a thousand times, all of who blew themselves up one way or another, and all traces of them have been wiped out. Since the environment has not always been oxygen-rich, I bet a lot of them weren't even human, or even carbon-based, for that matter...

The birds probably lived before we bottled wine. They need to work something out. So if we stop harvesting the cork, what happens? What did they do before we harvested cork? The cork oak trees have always been there, at least since we became carbon-based. Nothing happens to them if they are not harvested (all the do is peel off the bark once every 10 years or so). Whether or not they are harvested does not affect the birdies. The problem is that the land is now suitable for other uses, and if cork is not economically viable, the trees will be ripped out by their roots and replaced with villas, which won't help the little birdies at all.

As for beverage, I believe most wine I drink was properly aged... Bottled last Thursday. :burp: And, stopped with cork, for the sake of the birdies.

When was the last time you found such an easy way to be a sensitive, wildlife-loving soul?

bczoom
01-11-2007, 11:38 AM
bet this poor planet was home to advanced civilizations at least a thousand times, all of who blew themselves up one way or another, and all traces of them have been wiped out. Since the environment has not always been oxygen-rich, I bet a lot of them weren't even human, or even carbon-based, for that matter...
I don't know if aliens are listed in my aforementioned percentages. :whistle:

The problem is that the land is now suitable for other uses, and if cork is not economically viable, the trees will be ripped out by their roots and replaced with villas, which won't help the little birdies at all.
In Spain, Portugal, Algeria, Morocco, France, Italy and Tunisia there are a total 6.2 million acres of cork oak. Since it's illegal to cut down cork oak in Portugal unless it's for forest management (felling old, unproductive trees), the birds will be retaining their habitat.

Under the EU's "Habitat Directive", Portugal alone has set aside 460 sq/miles for protection. Spain threw in another 1850 sq/miles.

Since wine cork only accounts for 15% of the cork extracted (although 2/3's of the revenue) I think the Portugese (and the birds) need to come up with a better marketing plan for their product.

When was the last time you found such an easy way to be a sensitive, wildlife-loving soul?
Not sure what you mean exactly...

Ice Queen
01-11-2007, 07:54 PM
Wine never seems to last longer than a week in my house - I wonder why that is, irrespective of whether it is corked with cork or plastic or screw top or even in a box!