Put a cork in it! Claim: wine corks deteriorating due to 'climate change'

From Science News: Wine corks may owe quality to gene activity

Discovery that distinguishes superior stoppers could help reverse global downturn

Even the most superb wine won’t last without its cork, but the quality of this renewable oaken resource has nose-dived in recent years. A new genetic study of trees that produce high- and low-quality cork divulges some clues behind this decline, hinting at a possible link to climate change.

A great cork safeguards a wine’s taste and its aging process, while inferior cork can taint the vino’s flavor. Cork is made from the protective outer layer of bark surrounding Quercus suber oak trees, which grow only in southwest Europe and northwest Africa. But the global supply of cork, a $2 billion industry, has faced problems with quality and competition. Synthetic wine stoppers and metal caps offer a cheap alternative and have boomed in popularity in recent years, but oaken corks are still preferred by wine aficionados.

More here: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/wine-corks-may-owe-quality-gene-activity

Some inconvenient FAQs on Corks:

Q. Isn’t there a cork shortage?

A. No in fact, based upon current estimates there is enough cork to close all wine bottles produced in the world, for the next 100 years. The cork forests are now being more sustainably managed than ever before in their history and new planting is always ongoing.

Q. What’s wrong with screw caps and plastic closures?

A. Screw caps are not made from a sustainable product; they are not actively being recycled in the US and are not biodegradable. In comparison to a natural cork, 24 times more greenhouse gasses are released and over and 10 times more energy is used when making one screw cap.

Plastic closures are made from petro-chemicals, are not biodegradable and are rarely recycled. They are not sourced from a sustainable product and produce 10 times more greenhouse gasses than natural cork to produce.

More: http://www.corkforest.org/faq_cork_facts.php

 

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cnxtim

Ahh the old “can’t be or might not be recycled” furphy. Pray tell, if i chuck my used cork in the garbage as I suspect everyone else does,, how the hell would anyone know if it as being recycled?

DGH
Keith Willshaw

Sounds like special pleading by the cork industry to me. As a regular wine drinker I greatly prefer screw caps to corks as not only are they easier to use they are far less likely to fail allowing the wine to spoil. Given that they are mostly made with metals that are eminently recyclable the environmental impact is a red herring. If you really want to save energy the way to do that is wash and reuse the bottles, a practice that used to be the norm.

JJM Gommers

Screw caps combined with plastic closures are more often used because the result after 5 or 10 years ageing of the wine is excellent. But people has to adapt that there is an alternative for the cork

To keep corks from drying out because of global warming, they must be well hydrated. The warmunist fear mongers should be given the task of infusing water into wine bottle stoppers. They already are a bunch of cork soakers.

Cork is better? Well, maybe. But I can’t help thinking of Blind-tested soloists unable to tell Stradivarius violins from modern instruments.

joelobryan

increasing atmospheric [CO2] will aid cork forest regeneration. warmer temps will increase production of intracellular HSPs, leading to more “good” cork. grapes will grow better in more CO2.
So it’s win, win, win …. if you believe in >CO2 –>> global warming.
And even if its … global warming –>> more CO2 , it’s still win^3 for wine lovers.

Neil

Always remember… no climate change link = not published / funded

Latitude

Previous studies have found that heat-shock proteins guard cork trees from ultraviolet light, high temperatures and drought — all of which have steadily become bigger problems in Portugal over the last century.
=================
no rise in temps since 1880………
http://hidethedecline.eu/media/ARUTI/Europe/SpainPortugal/fig11.jpg

dp

Here’s a market response from one person buying wine in the North Okanogan region of Washington State – a fine wine producing region, I might add. I won’t knowingly buy a bottle of wine that has a man-made stopper. Use them at your own peril.
Corks do come in a range of quality and it is one of the things you takes your chances on, but I’ve personally found very few bad corks in the last 50 years and none in the last 20 years. There is a lot of crap out there that passes for wine, though.

JimS

I have a pain in one of my little toes. Climate change strikes again and causes this pain in my little toes. I know this to be true because I never got pains in my little toes prior to 1950. Of course, I was not even living prior to 1950, but that is beside the point, surely.

HGW xx/7

More ‘wine-ing’, as usual, I see.

Svend Ferdinandsen

Don’t care, Soon you will see a study that finds out the wine also detoriates because of climate change. Accept it! We live in the best of times, all changes will make it worse, especially climate changes. 🙂

ferd berple

metal/plastic foil is typically added to bottles tops to protect the corks from drying out. There is more material involved in protecting the corks than simply using the same material as a screw top to eliminate the corks.

Bryan A

Now Cork grows in more places than the two listed (Southwest Europe and Northwest Africa) I live in Sonoma County ane a number of Cork Oaks grow here quite well.

outtheback

So now we have to stop AGW to save the cork industry.
Wow. You can see the next thing coming: they want special funding as AGW creates economic hardship for their industry. Now we have a study to prove it.
I have a bottle with screw cap any time over a cork one.
Ask any restaurant and they will tell you that they have far more bottles of wine being rejected by clients which had a cork then those with a screw cap.
I am sure that the quality of the cork will also play a part in that, should do a study but lack the funding, but why take the chance.
If cork quality is that important, and it is, to the aging process then these winemakers better make sure that they use good ones, otherwise use screw caps and be certain.

James at 48

I wonder if cork oaks are prone the sudden oak death syndrome. Cooler and wetter than normal conditions bring it on.

John F. Hultquist

Wine has a long history that predates cork closures, glass bottles, and oak barrels. It even survived the hostile activities of the English and the French. Real cork is a fascinating item but fine wine can exist without it. We named a Brittany Cork.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amphora
http://www.wineintro.com/history/glassware/general.html

The definition guy

As a lifelong and native resident of Cork City, Ireland I know more about Cork than most. In the last week or so I have been informed that redheads are on the verge of becoming extinct and no less an authority than Tyra Banks warns that full figured women will soon be a thing of the past. With the quality of Cork declining rapidly, I feel it prudent to move all the red headed, full figured women out of County Cork. The move won’t prevent the inevitable but it should buy the victims an extra year or two.
I searched the internet for any refutation of Tyra Bank’s scientific expertise so I’m assuming she holds advanced science degrees. I have if on good authority that her upcoming book on climate change, working title “Does global warming make my butt look fat?” brings a new perspective to the issue.

auralay

Centuries ago much of the ecology of the Iberian peninsular was destroyed to make way for cork oak monoculture. Surely a true Green would wish to change to recyclable caps and allow the original environment to regenerate?

Joseph Murphy

Metal screw caps most certainly are being recycled in the US as is almost everything metal. Even if you throw it in the trash, even if you threw it in the trash 50 years ago, it is being recycled today.
And not biodegradable? It is just as biodegradable as natural free iron in the environment, doesn’t seem to be harming anything.

Mac the Knife

Really?
Whiny whackos whining about Catastrophic Anthropogenic Wine Cork Disruption?
This isn’t environmentalism. It is overt mental illness.

DirkH

dp says:
July 16, 2014 at 10:09 am
“Here’s a market response from one person buying wine in the North Okanogan region of Washington State – a fine wine producing region, I might add. I won’t knowingly buy a bottle of wine that has a man-made stopper. Use them at your own peril.”
Corks are most definitely man-made. Someone has to give them their shape, don’t you think so.

Metal caps and plastic stoppers can be recycled if we will, cork can’t. But, on the other hand, when you toss your used cork it will biodegrade, metal and plastic are resistant to bio-degradation. You names yer pisin an yer takes yer pick.

Ok, PANICWHINE about WINE. Watts et al, you know I love you guys and gals, but WINE? Please, NOT the CORKS!!! Sorry, but my palate is now in dire risk of drowning in inferior climate affected wine.
New Panic Climate Alarmist.
Peace! (or not so much, you all MUST be stopped at any costs! Save the WHINE!)
🙂

I’m amazed that I heard Shepard Smith on Fox News (yesterday) attribute the cold temperatures in the midwest to “a thing climate change, have you heard of that?” Right. There’s no evidence at all that this cold is the result of global warming. It’s insane in fact, and this guy is on the supposed “fair and balanced” channel but is reporting just complete unsubstantiated hogwash. I mean, Fox is supposed to at least lean conservative, but to take an extreme position that the cold is caused by heat? I heard Shepard Smith might have some issues.

cedarhill

Not a word about how much more expensive cork stoppers compared to others. The cork bark is difficult to work plus they can taint (as in contaminate) some wines. If you need to bottle other beverages, such as whiskeys, on the same bottling line, you run into engineering issues when you switch. The boxes the bottles are shipped must be stronger and care must be taken regarding how how they can be stacked. All in all, cork stoppers are just plain more expensive.

Waitaminnit… I’m confused. They’re claiming that “Cork quality has been decreasing over the years”, “hinting at a possible link to climate change.” But then they say, “Good cork had a higher abundance of heat-shock proteins, which help other proteins form their correct shapes even under stressful conditions. Heat-shock proteins also aid cellular division, permitting the growth of thicker bark. Previous studies have found that heat-shock proteins guard cork trees from ultraviolet light, high temperatures and drought — all of which have steadily become bigger problems in Portugal over the last century.”
So we’re getting inferior cork because global warming is causing trees to produce better cork?
And they base all this on one-time sampling from ten trees?
Well… I suppose it’s better than just looking at one Yamal tree.

inMAGICn

Got news for you, Anthony, about where cork oaks grow. My grandfather planted one next to the house here in western Washington in the 1940’s and today it is HUGE. As it was never trimmed to provide cork, it has multiple branches and requires often drastic pruning to keep it under control.

inMAGICn

By “multiple branches, I meant not only branches but twinned trunks.

Pamela Gray

GOOD! Maybe now they will begin selling it by the barrel. This one bottle at a time is for the birds!
She said without a bit of vice in her.

Harold

Even if true, who other than a bunch of effete metrosexual .001%ers gives a flying cork?

Bryan A

they can be stacked. All in all, cork stoppers are just plain more expensive.
Carl “Bear” Bussjaeger says:
July 16, 2014 at 12:03 pm
Waitaminnit… I’m confused. They’re claiming that “Cork quality has been decreasing over the years”, “hinting at a possible link to climate change.” But then they say, “Good cork had a higher abundance of heat-shock proteins, which help other proteins form their correct shapes even under stressful conditions. Heat-shock proteins also aid cellular division, permitting the growth of thicker bark. Previous studies have found that heat-shock proteins guard cork trees from ultraviolet light, high temperatures and drought — all of which have steadily become bigger problems in Portugal over the last century.”
So we’re getting inferior cork because global warming is causing trees to produce better cork?
And they base all this on one-time sampling from ten trees?
Well… I suppose it’s better than just looking at one Yamal tree.
I think that the study of 12 trees likely indicated that for 11 of 12 the cork did better under stress but 1 tree produced the inferior cork. Like Yamal, this 1 tree is the source of the Doom and Gloom

LeeHarvey

@ Eric Simpson –
I think you might want to recalibrate your irony-meter.
@ Harold
It’s not just effete metrosexuals. Us hard-core drunks like wine, too.

Dan Toppins

Screw caps are becoming very popular in the restaruant/bar business due to the simplicity of use and storage. For those who do not consume an entire bottle at opening, such as my 69 year old mother, screw caps are perfect. Personally, cork affected by climate change is just another way of validating price increases…its that old follow the money thing.

Patrick

Well we won’t see any comedy in future.

Eric Simpson says:
July 16, 2014 at 12:00 pm
==================================
CNN and CBS, both had articles on how the recent typhoon Neoguri made changes to the jetstream, which then caused this cold drop into the US…http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/11/us/weather/index.html#comment-1480799379

urederra

I buy wine in bulk, in 5 liters Tetra Brik packages that come with a plastic faucet at the bottom. One of those with a rubber bubble you press and the wine drains off the Brik. The local Red Rioja wine goes for around $10 (7 €) at the farmers market. Since the Brik is too bulky to put it on the table, I have a bottle with a recycled cork which I refill every 3 – 4 days.
That kind of packaging is gaining popularity around here.

Rob

In days-gone-by I helped out at a premium winery in Western Australia and commented that they were using plastic ‘corks’ not wooden ones. I was told that the failure rate of corks (by failure, they meant allowing air to pass through and spoil the wine) was such that they were spending more on a special plastic stopper because they wanted to keep their good name for consistent quality. They admitted that screw caps were by far the best option, but that no-one would pay premium prices for wine in screw-capped bottles, whatever the quality of the wine.
What I have noted recently, however, is that more and more premium priced wines are on the shelves with a screw cap, suggesting that people are not as snooty any more. I think the wine-buying public are getting a bit more savvy these days that you don’t always get better wine by paying more money.

Bruce Cobb

Boxed wine. Problem solved.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

Ding, Ding, Ding! We have a winner here. “Deteriorating wine corks” is not currently listed as one of the many things caused by global warming.
Don Pardo, please tell our contestant what he’s won …
I see a new time-waster here, the “Warming Whack” contest, similar to Googlewhack, where you try to find some dire consequence not already linked to Global Warming. Winners get a research grant.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

Messed up on of the links. The comprehensive list of all things linked to Global Warming is here:
http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/warmlist.htm

george e. smith

Well cork is also a highly preferred material to make the handles of fishing rods, specially good fly rods. No substitute even comes close.
But these days, all you can buy to make rods, is crap; full of large voids, and easily broken.
The properties that make cork ideal for wine stoppers, also makes the best fly rod handles. Can’t buy fly rod corks (rings) anywhere near as good as the average wine bottle cork.
But fly rods don’t amount to a hill of beans, compared to wine corks.

Admad

“It’s Worse Than We Thought” [TM]

Tom J

Years ago I did volunteer work for a women’s rights organization ’cause I thought it might be a great way to meet a sophisticated young woman. Now, for those of you who haven’t ripped their insides to shreds in laughing at what I just wrote, let me assure you that women do not; repeat – do not; join women’s rights organizations with the intention of meeting a man.
Anyway, it was a non-partisan organization but very politically involved. And we (or, should I say all the women in the organization and their mascot male – me) were at a high falutin’ big bucks political rally at a high priced gallery on Chicago’s near north side. The big shots were all there including a mayoral candidate from the city’s top Irish law firm, congressional reps, you name it. Anyway, rather than allow their mascot male, me, to embarrass the organization they figured, since they knew I’d had plenty of experience with alcohol, they’d plant me safely behind a bar doing bartender duty. How hard could it be, they thought? How hard could it be, I thought? Little did I know that opening a corked bottle of wine was quite a bit different than opening a can of beer. Little did they know that the one task they thought I wouldn’t embarrass them doing was also one in which I could excel at that as well.
I have little doubt that the deterioration in wine cork quality can be attributed to the reduced use of wine corks compared to screw tops and, unlike a rising tide that lifts all boats, it’s a case of rising embarrassment sinks all corks. Blame it on me. Not global warming.

Harold

LeeHarvey says:
July 16, 2014 at 12:44 pm
@ Harold
It’s not just effete metrosexuals. Us hard-core drunks like wine, too.
—–
But you drunks won’t know the difference between a designer pre-industrial artisanal cork and an industrial anthropocene GMO cork.

Bruce of Newcastle

No corks left here in Australia. Once wine drinkers got used to screwcaps the winemakers fell over themselves to change over.
Just shows how the climateers are behind the curve again. Nearly 18 years of no global warming and they are moaning that global warming will endanger our corks?
Well there is not global warming here in Oz, there are no corks and very soon there will be no carbon tax.

Tom Bakert

@Mark and two Cats: “cork soakers”. Yeah, I got it, ROFLMAO!

johanna

Yep, Bruce, the demise of corks couldn’t have come soon enough for me! Horrible things – I shudder to remember the ones that disintegrated as you tried to get them out, meaning that your wine (when you finally were able to get to it) was sprinkled with tiny, irremovable bits of cork.
The Stelvin cap is one of the great inventions of my lifetime. And it makes resealing a partly consumed bottle a breeze, which both home users and restaurants that sell by the glass appreciate.

charles nelson

The single biggest threat to cork plantations is property development.