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Can’t Tell Whether a Wine Bottle Has a Plastic Cork or Real Cork? There’s an App for That!

Posted By Beth Terry On March 8, 2012 @ 2:21 pm In wine | 24 Comments

One of the most frequent requests I get is for a list of wines with natural cork stoppers because most of the time it’s impossible to see what kind of cork a bottle has without opening it up.  When I first started this project, I began keeping a list of wines and what kinds of closures they had [1], but I quickly realized how futile that exercise was.  There are so many brands of wine, using different closures for different varietals, and sometimes changing their packaging with new bottlings.

So I was beyond excited when I received an email pitch this week about a new website and app – okay, not actually an app but a mobile site you can access via any smartphone — called CorkWatch [2] that lets shoppers look up specific wines to find out what kind of stopper they have.



There are several ways to search.  If you know what kind of wine you want to drink, use the “Wine Type” drop down menu to choose among varietals and styles of wine.  If you are standing in the grocery aisle and want to know if a particular wine has a natural cork, use the “Wine Brand” drop down to select the brand as well.  I’m not really sure what the search box at the top is for.  I input several different types of wine in the box and got no results.  But for me, the two drop down menus are enough to get the information I need.

The database is populated with over 2,000 wines right now, mostly from the bigger wineries.  But the beauty of this site is that users can also add their own finds to the database, since many smaller wineries are not yet listed.  I quickly added some wines from San Francisco’s Sutton Cellars (which I wrote about a few weeks ago [3]).  This program will really only work if users contribute information to make the database really useful.

The site  is a project of the Cork Quality Council [4] and ReCORK [5], a wine cork recycling program.  I think it’s really smart of the cork industry to enlist wine drinkers in helping promote their product in this way.  Maybe if  the app is successful, wine companies will have proof that their customers want real cork and not plastic or plastic-lined screw caps, which often contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals [6].

Why is Cork Sustainable?

I have written about why natural cork is preferable to plastic or screw caps [7] before.  Many people are under the assumption that cork trees must be cut down to make cork products, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Cork is the bark of the cork oak, which is harvested manually and grows back to produce new cork for generation after generation.  The cork industry supports the existence of cork forests, which are home to several endangered species, and which could otherwise be cut down to make way for less sustainable products if the cork market did not exist.  I think anything that promotes the existence of old growth forests is a good thing.  

Is Cork Better for Wine?

The 100% Cork initiative has posted several Youtube videos of vintners explaining why they prefer natural corks for their wines over plastic or screw caps.  Here is one:

Try it and give your feedback

I spoke with CorkWatch representative Lance Ignon a few days ago, who assured me that the database will be kept up to date and that they are currently working on Version 2.0 to make the site even more useful. Why not try it out and give them your feedback? One thing I asked for is the ability to change my password from the random auto-generated password. (A password is only required for adding information to the database but not for simply looking things up.) If you try out the site and have suggestions about how it could be better, please leave a comment.

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URL to article: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2012/03/cant-tell-whether-a-wine-bottle-has-a-plastic-cork-or-real-cork-theres-an-app-for-that/

URLs in this post:

[1] a list of wines and what kinds of closures they had: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2007/09/wine-list/

[2] CorkWatch: http://recork.org/corkwatch/

[3] which I wrote about a few weeks ago: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2012/01/zero-waste-jug-sunday-at-sutton-cellars-winery-in-san-francisco/

[4] Cork Quality Council: http://www.corkqc.com/

[5] ReCORK: http://recork.org

[6] which often contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals: http://www.listener.co.nz/commentary/making-a-case/

[7] why natural cork is preferable to plastic or screw caps: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2007/08/woman-drinks-wine-unwittingly-threatens/

[8] Image: https://plus.google.com/+BethTerry

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