Photo by Derek Gavey
Nothing is more disappointing than peeling the foil off of a bottle of wine and seeing….a synthetic cork (dun dun DUNNNN). Or worse, a plastic cap/twist off.
Natural cork stoppers are made from the bark of the cork oak tree, or Quercus suber, which can be safely harvested from the trunk every 9 years. Stripping the bark actually benefits the tree, and, most times, is done by hand by workers whose families have cultivated the cork trees for centuries. There are a number of animals whose habitats rely on them. You can read more about that here, or check out this site and sign their petition!
Beth over at MyPlasticFreeLife has blogged about natural cork and how she refills her wine bottles in the bay area before. I liked this post on the subject, but unfortunately, to my knowledge I don’t have options like refilling my wine bottles (NorCal 1, SoCal 0). So, I’ve been keeping a list of the brands and vintages of wines with natural cork I’ve tried. This list should be waaaay longer, but I haven’t had the wherewithal to update it in several months, and sometimes I’ve recycled the bottles before I can add them, and I can never remember the vintage.
Lucky for me the wine bottles are visibly glass, which (provided it isn’t broken) is always recycled, and I don’t have to worry that they’ll be tossed out when they get to a recycling center, like some plastic items. The corks, however, are usually hidden from view by some weird decorate-y foil (or plastic). What can one do in that situation?
Well, my answer is just to try to slide the foil up until I can see the cork. I can usually tell by sight whether it’s real cork or synthetic plastic. The synthetic ones are really smooth, non-porous, and sometimes different colors. I’m pretty sure retailers wouldn’t appreciate my ruining the appearance of their merchandise, but I haven’t been caught at it yet. It’s not something I’d like to continue to do, but the distributors around here haven’t caught on to the “naked” packaging look yet: wine bottles that are distributed without foil wrapping (NorCal 2, SoCaL: still 0).
And I just don’t buy twist caps and (noticeably) synthetic stoppered bottles. Even if their contents are really, really good.
Another way, one I’m not sure is entirely in effect yet since I’d never seen it before, is to look for an acorn symbol on the bottle. The Cork Forest Conservation Alliance has an assurance program called Real Cork Inside that is calling for wineries to participate. If you’re a vintner or know someone who is, bug them about it!
HOLD THE PHONE. I just discovered a website called CorkWatch, which is a searchable database of natural cork wine vintages, and you can add your own! Amazing! Somebody should make an app for it… Someone other than me. I lack both the know-how and the time, but am otherwise all about it! Just casting a wistful suggestion into the ether, guys.
Anyway, here is my sadly short list. I’m going to try to keep updating it IN ADDITION to adding them all to CorkWatch. Just to be safe. I’ll be sure to update when I add something! Party on, and pura vida!
Coastal Vines Chardonnay 2009
Creme de Lys Chardonnay 2010
Francis Coppola Diamond Collection 2010 Chardonnay
Ruffino Lumina Pinot Grigo delle Venezie 2010
Chateau St. Michele Harvest Select Reisling Columbia Valley 2010
Tierra Salvaje Monastrel 2009
Rosemount Shiraz 2009
Oak Creek Cabernet Savignon n.v.
n.b. Some of these wines are not vegan friendly, i.e. they are made with gelatin, albumen, casein, or isinglass finings. If this is a concern for you be sure to double check them on Barnivore.com, for example, before you buy! (Chateau St. Michelle is owned by the same parent company as Phillip Morris as well as being not veg friendly, as a depressing side note, quality notwithstanding).
Updated: February 2012