Put a cork in it


Well, as they say, you learn something new every day. I started this blog thinking how great the new screw top wine bottles were because they allowed you to easily reuse wine bottles. I’m desperate for more bottles because I’ve made so much tomato sauce that I’ve run out of them! For some reason I was also under the false impression that cork was somehow endangered and finding alternatives to corks would be good for the environment. WRONG! … apparently

I must have been so drastically in need of a drink that I persuaded myself that my new action for today just had to be researching wine bottle closures. Before you could say “pour me another” I’d walked to my local bottleshop and started a conversation with Clinton who convinced me that the new Stelvin Screw Caps were a much better alternative to traditional corks. I must say I loved his suggestion that I go straight home to sample a glass of red wine out of the bottle with the Stelvin Screw Cap. He pointed out that the only criticism of Stelvins was that they didn’t release Sulphur in the way that corks do. He suggested having a drink one night, then trying a glass out of the same bottle 24 hours later. The taste would be markedly better after the sulphur had been released and that’s part of the reason why true wine lovers will always decant wine (cork or not).

A number of wines are now bottled exclusively with Stelvin Screw caps and he lent me his “Wines of Australia” by David Pearce to read more about it:

“Although the purists will always argue that wine should be bottled with a cork closure, this has proved to be an antiquated argument when directed towards Clare Rieslings. I liken it to the arrival of CDs in the early 1980’s. All music lovers (including me) far preferred the touch and feel of vinyl, whilst being able to read the inner sleeve. Times change, and now I cannot conceive the idea of having to change sides every 20 minutes, dust the records down and desperately try to avoid scratching them. I am positive the same will happen for wine in the next ten years. The reason for this new type of closure (although it has been around since the 1960’s in trial form) is to eliminate the problem of Trichloranisole, which is more commonly known as TCA. It is derived from corks and gives a wine a wet cardboard or corky nose and flavour. The incidence of this occurring is widely speculated, but it is really down to our own ability to pick it up through varying levels of tolerance. Studies have shown it to affect between 2 and 20% of all wines bottled. This is alarmingly high and I can think of no other beverage-based industry that would tolerate such a high level of spoilage that is only discovered by the paying public. Stelvins have been trialled extensively and perhaps nowhere more so than in the Clare Valley. The district as a whole bottled all of their 2001 production under this closure”

Nevertheless I thought I’d do a little more research and I don’t mind admitting I was completely surprised to discover that the best environmental choice for bottle closures is actually cork.

Peter Weber, director of the Natural Cork Quality Council, has been reported by ACF newsource as saying that cork forests provide a wooded grassland habitat which houses at least 42 bird species and 60 plant species, including the endangered Spanish imperial eagle and Iberian lynx. Unlike plastic, cork is a natural, renewable resource, biodegradable and environmentally friendly.

Weber says if plastic takes over 95 percent of corks used worldwide, which could happen by 2015, the European cork industries will crumble and take the cork forests with them. Cork for wine brings in 70 percent of the income, he says. Even with other uses for cork, like floor tile and shoes, it won’t compensate for the

loss of wine revenue. As a result, economic pressures could force farmers to convert their forests for other uses, like eucalyptus timber farms or more intensive farming. This would not only disrupt the natural ecosystem and increase erosion, but also require far more water.

In July last year The World Wildlife Fund called for the wine industry to “choose cork” to save the environment and triggered a very heated debate. In May The Independent newspaper reported that up to three quarters of the unique cork oak forests of the Mediterranean could be lost within 10 years because of the increasing popularity of the screw-top wine bottle.

“Clever propaganda by the manufacturers of screw tops and plastic corks has led many people to think that cork stoppers are bad for the environment when exactly the opposite is true,” said Beatrix Richards, WWF forest campaigner. “Supermarkets must label their wine bottles so shoppers can chose to support the cork oak forests of the Mediterranean and protect the Iberian lynx when buying their wine.”

According to the WWF cork extraction is one of the most environmentally friendly harvesting processes in the world – not a single tree is cut down to get the cork. Cork cutters make precise incisions into the cork bark and then strip it off the trees – like peeling a skin away from a banana. After harvest, each tree is painted with a big white number to indicate when it was last stripped. The trees are left for nine years to allow the cork bark to grow back again, and then the whole process starts again. The forests are ancient with some trees living up to 400 years.

I may well have been becoming maudlin because of all the red wine but this really did highlight for me the difficulty at times of actually knowing what the right thing to do is. I was all ready to buy up big with Stelvin Screw Caps, thinking I was doing the right thing for the environment. I’m sure this is why most people don’t act on global warming – there is so much confusing information that they just shove it in the back of their mind hoping one day someone will come to them and tell them definitively what to do.

The trouble is that if the truth is too “inconvenient” people will always find ways to rationalise their way out of it.

Well, now, a few wine glasses later, I realise I made the wrong choice with the wine bottle … but at least I tried … and at least now I know I’ll always buy wine bottles with corks, while I still can.

I was a little more successful with my political action today. I’ve been blogging onto every site I can find – writing to Monbiot, David Dale, other American bloggers, The Australian Compact …. and I finally had a real success today when I sent something in to Sydney Morning Herald political journalist Peter Hartcher’s first blog about current news polls. He mentioned that 120,000 people now write blogs and, while he ultimately summed up that workchoices are going to have a significant effect on election results I did manage to put my tuppence worth in about global warming as an election issue.


“Walk with chest out like this back strate …. all day” – Maxie

When the boys came in to tell me with great excitement about an ad they’d seen for an “ab cruncher” that will make your stomach muscles really strong I spent the next half hour teaching them all sorts of exercises they could do themselves that would make them even stronger and would not require them spending a cent on an “ab cruncher”. They seem to have my same passion for targets because they quietly went away and drew up exercise charts to remind them of what I’d shown them – they’ve told me that they’re now going to be exercising regularly every morning and every night, determined to become fit and strong.


6 different exercises by Oscar