Adam Lechmere, editor of decanter.com, recently reported that the cork industry has secured the endorsement of Prince Charles for a new campaign called ‘I Love Natural Cork’, Vine Talk: Campaign promotes wine corks over screwcaps, Reuters, 7 September 2010.

The cork industry’s public relations material is designed to appeal to our sense of tradition and ‘green’ conscience: “Natural cork in your wine bottle does more than just preserve and improve the quality and character of your wine. It preserves a centuries-long way of life in the rural communities of the Mediterranean cork oak forests, its incredible wildlife as well as the planet by absorbing CO2.”

The decline in cork’s popularity as the preferred wine stopper is certainly a serious cause of concern for the cork industry, and especially for Portugal, which makes 85 per cent of the natural closures – a figure that accounts for approximately 3 per cent of its GDP. As Lechmere notes, 10 years ago 95 per cent of bottles had cork closures. Last year, natural cork accounted for 69 per cent of the 18 billion wine closures sold.

But leaving aside for the moment the merits of the preserving centuries of tradition and stopping global warming, is cork still the best closure for preserving and improving the quality of wine?

Wine connoisseurs are now starting to sample bottles with screwcap closures that have been cellared for almost a decade.

Campbell Mattinson, wine critic and editor of The Wine Front, made the following observations in his January 24, 2008 review of a Howard Park Cabernet Merlot 2001:  “It’s hardly ‘news’ but I was delighted to enjoy a bottle of 2001 Howard Park Cabernet Merlot last week – sealed under screwcap. This was my favourite red wine of the 2001 West Australian vintage and

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