How Green a Wine Drinker Are You?

Choosing wines keeps getting more complicated. Not only do we have to
worry about the quality of what gets in our glass and then our gullets,
but now we’re told we should drink “green” or “natural” wines,
according to how many or how few pesticides were used in the vineyard.
We’re urged to support winemakers who parade around the vineyard in dark
robes on the night of the autumn solstice, chanting weird incantations
and burying manure-filled cow horns among the vinerows.

Favoring organic or biodynamic wines may make sense – there’s plenty
of reasons to do so, including, arguably, quality of the wines. But now
we’re urged to think about more than quality. Recently, I joined the
collective wail against heavy bottles. Some wines claim to be “carbon
neutral,” because savings in emissions at the winery through solar power
or other eco-friendly practices offset the greenhouse gases produced in
getting those wines to market. Boxed wines are having a renewed vogue,
in part because they take less space in landfills than bottles and cost a
lot less to produce and transport.

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we care about all this, then here’s another thing to consider: Cork.
Somewhat out of vogue because of the market’s infatuation with screw
caps, the cork industry is beginning to argue not only that it has the
cork taint problem under control, but that its stoppers are the only
natural ones available. Plastic “corks” are, well, plastic. Screw caps
use a petroleum-based seal, as do the glass stoppers sometimes used in
Germany and Austria.

Cork forests absorb CO2, and cork stoppers
themselves even retain a small measure of that greenhouse gas. Used cork
stoppers can be recycled into other products, such as flooring,
automotive gaskets – even the nose cone on the space shuttle or your
badminton shuttlecock.

Will avoiding screw caps help fight global warming? Well, we’re
bordering on ridiculous hyperbole with that claim. But if we shun
bottled water, and we no longer use plastic grocery bags, and we choose
one product over another because it features the recycling symbol ….
Well, then it’s something to think about.

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4 Responses to How Green a Wine Drinker Are You?

  1. Very interesting post, Dave.
    Coincidentally, we just came across a great article by Tom Cannavan,
    also on the topic of cork.
    On his wine pages, he has recently posted an extensive article on his
    trip to Amorim, the manufacturer of our Cork Oak Floors, entitled
    €œCork Fights Back€.
    Here’s the permalink:
    http://wicanderscorkoakblog.com/2008/07/24/cork-fights-back/
    Thanks a lot,
    Team Wicanders

  2. Thanks for passing that link along – the Amorim PR machine is indeed
    active. They feel they have TCA as contained as it can be and that it’s
    time to go off the defensive and tout the positive aspects of cork. I
    expect we’ll be hearing more of this “natural” argument in the future.
    Cheers!
    Dave Mc

  3. R. Olsen-Harbich says:

    I agree that the use of cork has been taken for granted – with all the
    hub bub over screw caps and quality, we seem to have forgotten the
    sustainability of cork.
    One point that I profoundly disagree with you on is the assumption that
    so-called bio-dynamic and even certified organic wines are any healthier
    or better for you than well-made wines made without these methods. You
    did well by using good science on the cork issue however your take on
    organics and biodynamics is not based on any science at all – just
    opinion.

  4. I don’t believe I made that argument or that assumption. I have heard
    people say they don’t want to drink pesticides, but I’ve seen no
    evidence that pesticides get into wine. The most convincing argument
    I’ve heard in favor of biodynamic farming came from Sam Tannahill, owner
    of Rex Hill in Oregon. “I don’t know if it makes better wines,” he
    said, “but at least I know I’m not killing my workers.”

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