Guidelines Encourage Wineries to Consider Cork Forests When Calculating Carbon Footprint

Winemakers who want to lighten their carbon footprint have yet another reason to seal their wine with natural cork, 100 percent Cork recently announced.

The International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) is now encouraging wineries to consider the carbon offset value of cork forests when calculating the Greenhouse Gas Score of cork closures. The OIV recently announced the new protocol, once again making carbon sequestration a relevant environmental issue that continues to distinguish natural cork from artificial stoppers.

"Cork closures (have) important impact in the sustainable conservation of forest," the General Assembly of the OIV wrote in its resolution. "Because of this important role, carbon balance of corks may be taken into account when applying the Product Protocol."

OIV's new International Guidelines mean wineries should take the 6.6 million acres of cork oak forests in the Mediterranean Basin into consideration when aspiring to reduce their carbon footprint. 

"When accounting the GHG emissions related to natural cork closures, the cork production system should be considered from a holistic approach. The final figures of the GHG emissions due to the cork production should consider the managed forest it comes from and its carbon sink effect," according to the OIV resolution.

Cork Closures Produce Net Reduction in CO2 emissions

Throughout its life cycle, natural cork creates a net decrease in CO2 emissions, whereas synthetic and aluminum stoppers are net contributors to CO2 pollution, according to the peer-reviewed comparative Life Cycle Assessment conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers/Ecpbilan.

A CO2 calculator at can be used to calculate the carbon footprint of closure types and convert them into auto mileage.  For example, using natural cork on 5,000 cases of wine reduces approximately 7.4 tons of CO2 -- the equivalent of eliminating about four average car trips from Anchorage to Miami.

By contrast, using metal screw-caps or synthetic stoppers on 5,000 cases increases CO2 emissions by 2.5 tons and 1 ton, respectively, according to the calculator.  If U.S. wineries switched all of their synthetic closures alone to natural cork, there would be a savings of approximately 7,000 tons of carbon emissions, the equivalent of nearly 12 million miles of automobile travel.

The cork oak forests offset the carbon dioxide emissions from 2.5 million vehicles every year, prevent desertification, provide habitat for 25,000 plant and animal species and sustain generations of family farmers. The forests are found in portions of North Africa, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, which is the world's largest cork producer.

OIV's full report can be viewed here.