WINE. Fine when you dine, make it all mine, I love the taste of fine wine! As you may be able to tell I love my wine and I open at least 4 bottles of wine every day. Not to say that I drink all of it, I mean I am pretty sure I could and it would probably follow with a painful morning, but I am a server at a restaurant and opening wine has become a kind of a fetish for me. The taste, the aroma, the tannins! Oh boy I am getting carried away… So! As of late I have been constantly hearing from people around me that there is a cork shortage going on. This did not bother me at first but as I came to realize that my wine key will become useless with no more cork pulling to do during a wine presentation, I became overrun with grief and hostility. Well not really, but it would take away from the casual conversation that could be had and the ability to show off my expertise during my wine opening “ceremony”.
Alright lets not get sidetracked. I immediately started to research a bit and it turns out that for a while Trichloroanisole or (TCA) was an issue that the cork industry ignored, creating unhappy consumers of wine. TCA causes wine aromas to be tainted with tastes of card board and mold rendering the wine undrinkable, although honestly some wine is normally undrinkable anyways. For a time there was no real testing done on cork and people started coming to the realization that cork may not be all that safe to use.
So what happens when something starts going bad? We put some spices and salt on it and eat it anyway! Really though, we usually improvise and put research into that field to better it and make it more efficient. Thus, alternatives to cork were developed such as screw caps and plastic closures. The problem with these alternatives is they are not as bio degradable as cork is, resulting in a hit on the environment. But hey, they are cheaper and that’s usually the focus anyways when it comes to any industry; if it is cheaper and more efficient who cares about the environment.
It turns out that even if these alternatives are cheaper they are not that necessary anymore since the cork industry started cracking down on TCA:
Wine taint from bottles closed with natural cork is down to 1% there is no quality benefit to using an alternative closure.
So what is the deal? Are we experiencing a cork shortage or not?! According the Cork Forest Conservation Alliance or CFCA (honestly Cork Forest Conservation Alliance is more fun to say so forget that abbreviation):
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.
In fact cork forests are actually good for the environment:
These forests absorb millions of tons of CO2 each year and are a vast provider of oxygen to our planet. The forests also provide the greatest defense against the desertification of this region. The cork forests are one of the most sustainable and environmentally harvested forests in the world.
Not to mention that cork is very biodegradable and recyclable (ahhh the power of repetition)! Cork has a lot of cool uses such as flooring and different crafts, and while it may have been a problem at one point, the cork industry has taken care of business. No more of this cork shortage nonsense people! Simply put, it all boils down to money. The more you know… well at least I can peacefully resume my condescending ceremony without any real worry. For now.
So the next time you are in a nice restaurant or considering cooking up a delicious meal that would pair really well with a nice bold red wine or a crisp white wine, make sure to go for the real thing and get it with a cork! It may cost a little more but what’s wrong with spoiling yourself once in a while?! Think of it as donating to better the environment. Everybody wins.
Food Service Warehouse- Wine Basics for the Bartender Part 2: Major Types of Red and White Wine
The Kitchn- Wine Words: Tannin
Luxist- How to Use a Wine Key Like a Pro
Wikipedia- Alternate Wine Closures
Cork Forest Conservation Alliance
Wise Bread- 25 Things to do With Used Corks (Including Making Money With Them)