As part of their commitment to sustainable practices, many wineries target reductions in greenhouse gasses. These efforts are particularly suited to creating specific performance benchmarks. Their scope can include all areas of operation including production, agriculture and logistics.
The choice of bottle closures is often overlooked, but can be an important factor in reducing a winery’s greenhouse footprint. All published estimates show that the production of Natural Cork has a lower carbon footprint than any alternative. More importantly, if you calculate the carbon fixing effect of the cork forest, the net carbon footprint for natural cork is an offset that can be applied to other winery activities.
The Portuguese cork forest acts as a carbon sink for 4.8 million tons of CO2. The value of CO2 absorbed by this indigenous forest is estimated to be an offset of 113.2g of CO2 per cork. This makes the net carbon emission from the use of natural cork a carbon offset of -112 grams per cork.
International Guidelines encourage wineries to include cork's environmental benefits when calculating the carbon footprint of bottled wine. The OIV's publication " General Principles of the OIV Greenhouse Gas Accounting Protocol for the Vine and Wine Sector", advised wineries to take into account the carbon offset value of the cork forest when calculating the GHG value of cork closures.
The following table compares the carbon footprints for major closure types based on estimates from the peer-reviewed, PriceWaterhouseCooper, Ecobilan, “Analysis of the life cycle of Cork, Aluminum and Plastic Wine Closures - October 2008”. It includes a comparison of net CO2 emissions to a corresponding emission levels offset by the annual operation of a standard 250 watt solar panel.
This analysis shows that the carbon offset attributed to natural corks is equivalent to the annual savings from 17 solar panels per 1,000 cases of wine. The same 1,000 cases of wine, finished in a typical screwcap would require an additional 5.6 solar panels to balance the carbon footprint of the closures’ manufacture.