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Consumer campaign to put a cork in myths

A campaign to make consumers aware of the need to save Portugal’s cork oak forests has been launched in the UK this month (July) by APCOR, the Portuguese Cork Association. The ‘I Love Natural Cork’ campaign asks consumers to ‘Sign the Pledge’ and choose natural cork over artificial closures.

According to new research commissioned by APCOR, whilst 96% of the UK’s 28.5 million wine drinkers (source 1) claim to recycle their wine bottles, the last thing on the minds of two thirds (63%) of the population when buying wine is the environment, let alone the impact of different types of wine stoppers on biodiversity, rural communities and centuries old traditions.

Asking specific questions of 1,500 British wine drinkers, it was found that only one in 20 (4%) consumers prefer plastic stoppers whilst nearly three in five (58%) said that once told of the environmental, social and cultural benefits of natural cork, they would buy more wine sealed in the traditional way.

This research also highlighted how the most popularly-held myths surrounding cork stopper production and quality need to be debunked. A brand new UK generic campaign will address this by working with social networks; major environmental initiatives; retailer activity and road shows over the next 12 months.

The top three most commonly held myths are:

Myth 1: Trees are cut down in the production of cork so it’s better for the environment to buy other closures.  More than one in five people (22%) admitted to thinking trees are cut down and 47% of the British public had no idea that trees are not harmed during the process.

Reality: Not a single tree is felled in the production of natural cork.  In fact, it takes 25 years for a tree to be ready for harvest and then, and only then, the bark is harvested every nine years for around 200 years.

Myth 2: Screw caps are the most environmentally friendly closure: 25% of Brits believe this to be true

Reality: Natural cork production has huge environmental benefits:

  • It is a 100% natural, sustainable and renewable product compared with other closures – one of which is an oil based petroleum stopper and another is sourced from an open-pit bauxite mine
  • According to Conservation International, the cork oak forests are a top diversity hotspot and have some of the richest and most threatened reservoirs of plant and animal life on Earth e.g. the Iberian lynx. Per one thousand square metres of cork oak forest, there are approximately 135 species of plant and many of these species have aromatic, culinary or medicinal uses
  • The production of natural cork stoppers is also responsible for ten (source 2) times less carbon dioxide emissions than plastic stoppers and 24 times less than screw caps
  • It guarantees the survival of the huge 400 year old cork oak forests of the Mediterranean Basin, which are known as the ‘green lung of Europe’ as they absorb up to 14million tonnes  of CO2 a year (source 3)

The Forest Stewardship Council has extended its sustainability accreditation to a significant proportion of the cork oak forests

Myth 3: Corked wine is still an issue of wine using natural cork stoppers: 1 in 5 wine drinkers (25%) still worry about wine which uses natural cork because it might be corked.

Reality: The cork industry has invested millions in tackling naturally occurring taint.  At this year’s ‘world championship of wine’ – the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles – of almost 7,000 bottles opened at the prestigious event approximately only 1% were identified as being affected by TCA (or 2,4,6-trichloroanisole), also known in the trade as cork taint. This is well within standards and also, importantly, in line with other recorded faults with wines sealed with screw caps and plastic stoppers.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), if natural cork’s share of the wine closure market continues to decline at the same rate, then three quarters of the Western Mediterranean’s cork oak forests could be lost within the next ten to fifteen years (Source 4).

Don’t just take our word for it:
The RSPB's Jose Tavares works with SPEA, the RSPB's Portuguese partner. He said: “For centuries, the production of cork has helped to retain cork forests, one of the richest wildlife habitats in southern Europe. A range of species from eagles and Iberian lynx to songbirds and reptiles find a vital refuge in these forests, and a reduction in the use of natural cork threatens the existence of these special species and also a magical and vibrant landscape.”
Jilly Goolden, wine critic, says: "For me there isn't a completely satisfactory alternative to real cork as a wine bottle closure. Cork is entirely natural and environmentally sound, to say nothing of the romance, history and theatre of the cork.”

So, now is the time for wine drinkers to do one small thing to make a huge environmental difference. The new campaign asks them to visit  and pledge support for natural cork.  They can also join the conversation about natural cork on the Facebook page too.


About is a campaign to recruit UK wine consumers to choose wine with natural cork stoppers because of cork’s environmental, economic and social/cultural benefits. The campaign seeks to educate, organise and recruit wine drinkers to request that wine producers and retailers choose natural cork over artificial closures. The campaign is funded by APCOR, the Portuguese Cork Association.


About APCOR – Portuguese Cork Association APCOR’s mission is to represent and promote the Portuguese Cork Industry, with almost 250 members, representing around 80% of the total national cork production and 85% of all cork exports. APCOR is also responsible for promotional activities, with added value to cork, on both a national and international scale, in addition, as extensive Information Resource Centre on cork


Additional cork facts

  • The cork industry is 100% sustainable and natural with zero waste. When a cork tree reaches full maturity, the bark is harvested in a centuries old tradition that produces 340,000 tonnes of natural cork stoppers a year.  The bark is left to regenerate for nine years before the process starts again. Literally all of the cork bark is used – any waste is granulated and returned into the process to make more natural corks.  Even the fine particles of cork dust are collected and used as fuel to heat the factory boilers.
  • Natural cork is made of very small cells: 750 million per cork stopper. This characteristic makes natural cork the most effective material for closing bottles as it is light, elastic, resistant, impermeable and easy to remove. Despite advances in technology, man has yet to be able to duplicate this incredibly complex structure.
  • By choosing natural cork, it is not just the environment that sees the benefits: the soul of the wine itself is preserved too.  Natural cork allows wine to breathe and mature and is vital to ensure the final taste and experience is the best it can be, as intended by the winemaker. Natural corks provide the perfect balance of letting in a micro-amount of oxygen sufficient to enable the wine to develop and mature.  Artificial closures either let in too much air into the bottle, leading to oxidation, or let in too little oxygen causing reduced flavours in the wine.

Source references:
Source 1: Wine Intelligence Landscape Report, 2009
Source 2: PwC and ECOBILAN: Cork, Plastic and Aluminium Life Cycle Analysis, Nov 2008
Source 3: The Environmental Importance of Cork, the Cork Information Bureau, 2009

Source 4: Cork Screwed?, WWF, May 2006



1 July 2010 - Felicity Murray