Saturday, August 25, 2007

Changing my mind about screwtops

So for a couple of years I have rejoiced in the rise of the screwtop wine bottle, mainly because I love when 'traditional' elitist methods become exposed as a bunch of crap. I was under the mistaken impression that corks had recently been exposed as actually worsening the quality of wine, or perhaps inhibiting good aging. As usual, it turns out the situation is much more complicated....luckily TIME has straightened me out here.

Essentially, it seems that cork quality has been going down for some time, leading to variability in quality of wine and also leading to a certain small % of wine being lost each year due to spoiling caused by bad corks. Hence this recent move towards aluminum caps. However...while I thought this would be a nice narrative that would jive with my anti-elitist (or maybe just anti-French) opinions on this issue, there is a whole sustainable development angle to this as well:
Today, the survival of cultivated cork forests, many of which are on private land, depends on their worth. If nobody is buying cork, landowners will use the farmland for something else. Enter the conservationists. As wineries began ramping up experimentation with new closures, WWF launched a program in 2004 encouraging consumers to "choose cork" to protect the forests, the biodiversity they support and the thousands of rural jobs they create.
What I like about reading about this program, however, is that it is finally consumer-centric, market-oriented conservationism, rather than regulatory tightening. Check it out.


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