Posts Tagged wine

Pros & Cons of Wine Taps

Posted by on Friday, 3 December, 2010

A newer method of serving wine at bars is serving it directly from the tap. This method is popular with environmentalists because when a bar serves wine from the tap, there is no need to use glass, plastic, metal, or other resources to make a bottle or a cap, which reduces waste. There are still some disadvantages with wine on tap because of issues related to the cork industry.

The main advantage of the wine tap is that the reservoir can hold a large amount of wine. Michigan State University
mentions that one bar uses a 1000 liter tank to store wine for the tap. A standard bottle of wine that holds four glasses is 750 milliliters, and even the larger bottles of wine only hold 1.5 liters, so the tank is holding the equivalent of 1333 standard bottles of wine.

One disadvantage of the wine tank is that wine can become contaminated. Fungus that grows on the cork is a significant problem with corked wine. If fungus gets into the 1000 liter tank, it can spoil all of the wine, which is very wasteful. It is much easier to discard an individual bottle of wine if fungus grows in the bottle.

Another advantage of the wine tap is that it is easier to make sure that each glass is the same size and receives the same mixing. Other types of restaurant taps can release a standard amount of a drink, and even automatically shut off to prevent overfilling a glass. The wine tap prevents overfills or underfills of each glass, and can automatically record how many glasses are served.

A disadvantage of the wine tap is that the bar no longer needs to purchase bottles that contain cork. The cork industry is important in Portugal and Spain because cork trees grow in wilderness reserve areas. If wine buyers no longer need to purchase cork, the extra income from this wilderness goes away. The local governments will not receive tax revenue from the cork trees and will have an incentive to chop them down and allow developers to build apartments and condominiums.

The Cork Campaign

Posted by on Sunday, 15 August, 2010

Wine Bottle A cork, made from a piece of cork oak, traditionally seals wine bottles. Some winemakers are using plastic bottle stoppers or metal caps. There is a tradeoff here. Cork can grow mold and it can be difficult for some people to open the corked bottle, although this is part of the ritual of enjoying wine. A plastic stopper doesn’t have mold problems and petroleum based plastics are cheap, for now, so some winemakers use these as an alternative. A new campaign, reported by Triple Pundit, has started at 100 Percent Cork to convince winemakers to continue corking wine bottles with real cork.

Cork has many environmental advantages. Cork trees, which are a type of oak, produce shade and oxygen while removing carbon dioxide from the air. According to 100 Percent Cork, it is not necessary to chop down a cork tree to produce corks for wine bottles, the cork only uses part of the bark. The cork trees have a long lifespan, several hundred years, even when winemakers harvest their bark. It is also possible to grow the cork trees organically. Organic wines are popular so it would be nice to know that the stopper for the wine bottle is an organic product as well. Cork farmers are also backing this campaign, since they lose their jobs if winemakers switch to plastic. Many of the cork farmers live in Portugal which has been hit very hard by financial turmoil.

One of the Big 4 accounting firms, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, performed a study comparing natural cork to plastic and metal stoppers. Natural cork produces much less carbon emissions by far, with plastics producing 10 times as many emissions and metal producing as much as 24 times greater emissions. This is a complete lifestyle study so it also includes mining expenses, plastic manufacturing, and disposal costs.

Cork also receives some unfair blame for causing wine taint. Researchers at Virginia Tech have found an alternate explanation for the cause of the taint. The chemical tribromophenol, often found in wood cleaners, is used in many wineries since it prevents fires as well as kills fungi. Tribromophenol has similar chemistry to trichloroanisole, which does cause cork related taint problems in wine. Both of these compounds are halogenated benzene rings, so telling them apart without performing chemical tests may be difficult.

Protecting the cork industry helps protect wildlife habitat in Portugal and Spain. According to the Smithsonian Zoogoer, cork trees grow in a region known as the dehesa, where many animals live in a grassland which is the home of many oaks. If winemakers switch to using plastic or metal stoppers, cork farmers will not earn any money and may have to sell the dehesa land to developers. The Smithsonian states that half of the world’s cork is grown in the dehesa in Portugal, and another quarter is grown in the Spanish dehesa.