It is perhaps the most middle-class of debates: should a wine bottle have a traditional cork or the more convenient but environmentally questionable screw top? But now a third contender is set to enter the dinner-party fray.
The manufacturer of the Select Bio cork, which goes on sale at Waitrose this weekend, claims its new plant-based wine stopper is the first carbon-neutral, fully re-cyclable wine cork on the market.
The stopper, which looks and feels like a traditional cork, isn’t made from the stripped bark of a cork tree but rather from a plant-based biopolymer derived from Brazilian sugar cane, which is normally used to produce biofuels.
Its manufacturer says it is fully recyclable and has a smaller carbon footprint than traditional corks, plastic corks and aluminium stoppers, long criticised for releasing up to 25 times more CO2 than traditional stoppers.
The cork’s manufacturer, US-based firm Nomacorc, already makes plastic wine corks and has grown its business to account for a 20 per cent share of the worldwide wine-closure market.
However, the biopolymer stopper may not be welcomed by all conservationists, following a run of reports from WWF which have argued that traditional Portuguese and Spanish cork production is vital for maintaining the region’s bio-diverse forests and providing homes to endangered species, such as the Iberian lynx and Barbary deer.
The Cubist Pablo Old Vine 2013 will be the first wine to use the plant-based cork in the UK. However, Alex Gilbert-Petz, head sommelier at Michelin-starred restaurant Pétrus, sounded a note of caution. He said: “The carbon-neutral cork is a fantastic way to draw attention to global environmental issues but, as many people order wine chosen for quality and taste, I think people will continue to do this whether they have carbon-neutral corks or not – or at least until more wines are available with the new closure.”
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