Monday, April 11, 2011

Wine Cork

Originally, I thought it would be a great idea to collect all my wine corks and reuse them in my new endeavor , Window by the Sea

I had collected a fairly decent amount before I began making our first cork board/ chalk board window. As I began placing the wine corks on the window, it became very clear that either I 

A: needed to drink much more wine
B: needed to find a better way to collect wine cork. 

Although choice A was clearly the most fun of the two choices, I wasn't sure how long or how much I could possible drink for "business". 

I began researching where I could find wine cork. It was important to use wine cork because I wanted to keep my theme of reclaimed and recycled resources to use with my reclaimed windows. Being a novis wine connoisseur, collecting wine cork and storing them in my vintage blue mason jars, was just another reason I loved wine. Now I had a use for these!

As I went through all my jars of wine cork, I realized that at least 10% of what I collected was synthetic wine cork, or "look alike" cork. I didn't put much thought into it when collecting them, but as they now have a purpose for my windows, I was curious why I had so many synthetic corks? Was I drinking incredibly cheap wine or was I missing something? 

I had heard that there was a shortage on wine cork and that the cork tree was becoming obsolete. But why? If I was going to find a source to get wine cork, I wanted to know a little bit about the material I was using and if I was helping with the demise of the wine cork tree. 

Finding answers, while using the interntet wasn't as black and white as I wanted it to be. On the first webpage I visited I found Fact and  Fiction of the Wine Cork. Here I learned that there in fact is  not a shortage of wine cork and that contrary to belief wineries are using synthetic cork or screw tops for financial purposes. 

The second sit I visited completely contradicted the first. There was a shortage in Portugal (one of the main cork tree exporters) due to over harvesting. But wait, I had just read that you don't cut down a cork tree, (part of the oak family) but instead you harvest the bark. Every 9 years to be exact. I also learned that the cork tree absorbs 10 times more CO2 than one that is not harvest. Go cork tree, right? 

But there is still a much heated debate as to whether wine cork stoppers are the best way to cork your wine. Experts argue that while cork stoppers are the traditional way to cork wine, using a synthetic cork stopper or screw cap is the optimal choice. 

A PR nightmare for cork producers was introduced in 1974 when the quality of cork had severely decline in Portugal. "Corkiness" as it soon was termed, tainted the wine cork industry and the wine it was preserving.  Experts argued that between 1 and 4% of all wine on the market was contaminated with "corkiness". 

What's corkiness? good question! I was confused myself.

 “corkiness,” a condition that exists when wine is tainted by the presence of a chemical compound called 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole - TCA for short. This compound appears to be caused in the cork by the interaction of moisture, chlorine and mold. Corks are often exposed to these elements during their production and TCA can form. (TCA also occurs naturally in the wood and bark of many trees, including the oak family.) Unfortunately, the human nose can detect this “corkiness” at concentrations as low as 4 parts per trillion!

So that was it. The Pandora's box that began the entire debate, screw top or wine cork.

But what did this mean to me and my cork board project? Well, it meant that if I bought wine corks from an outside source (keeping in mind that they had to be used cork not new) I needed to pay close attention to the descriptions. Synthetic cork just won't do. 

In the end I found a supplier of used wine corks that would sell to me without any synthetic cork in the lot. It was a difficult find, and expensive material. But well worth the outcome! Check out our Etsy store,  to see our finished product! 

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