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 behavior of the cork forest, the net carbon balance can provide a significant figure that may be applied to overall sustainability goals.
The Mediterranean cork forest acts as a carbon sink for 14 million tons of CO2. The average Net Ecosystem Exchange for CO2 for cork producing forests is -10.6 tons/ha. That is the equivalent of -278 grams per cork. When adjusted for the GHG emitted during cork production, the result is a net carbon balance of -276 grams per cork.
EU Rules for Product Environmental Footprint Category (PEFCR) for Wine state:
"Carbon permanently stored in the soil and tree biomass of cork oak forests and vines shall be taken into account if this storage goes beyond 100 years. The following methods shall be applied for calculating a) carbon permanently stored in the soil and/or b) biogenic carbon sequestration in permanent structure. Results shall be reported under the impact sub-category Climate Change - biogenic."
The following table compares the carbon footprints for major closure types. Values for cork are based on the current average of published lifecycle analyses from CQC member companies . Estimates for alternative slosures are taken from the peer-reviewed, PriceWaterhouseCooper, Ecobilan, “Analysis of the life cycle of Cork, Aluminum and Plastic Wine Closures - October 2008”.
The table 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 CO2 reduction provided by 83 solar panels per 1,000 cases of wine. The same 1,000 cases of wine, finished in a typical screwcap would require an additional 13 solar panels to balance the carbon footprint of the closures’ manufacture.