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.
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.