Amorim Cork: Sustainable for 150 Years, and Still Going Strong

Amorim Cork: Sustainable for 150 Years, and Still Going Strong

When the first cork stoppers were produced 150 years ago in Amorim’s initial rudimentary cork plant, the world was not concerned about the importance of maintaining a sustainable environment for planet earth. In 1870 the motor car had yet to be invented, fossil fuels were not being used and the presence of greenhouse’s gasses were unknown.

But 150 years later, it is a different world. One in which sustainability and the responsibility of companies and individuals to respect the environment, so as to ensure their future and that of the earth, now being the number one priority of our time. And although the founding Amorim fathers would not have been aware of it at the time of them setting out into the world of producing cork-stoppers, cork has turned out to be one of the major contributors to ensuring sustainability in the wine industry. The wine world is today, like all industries, under pressure to underscore and emphasise its sustainable credentials due to it being the right thing to do for the future of the earth, but also because consumers are demanding this from producers of the products they buy – wine most definitely included.

That’s why a latest major study done by EY Consultants at the end of 2019 is so revealing. The study assessing the CO2 retention rates with a cradle-to-gate methodology that measures everything from forest floor to finished stopper, concludes that cork closures are a major ally in the wine industry’s battle for sustainability. And that by buying a bottle of wine closed with cork, consumers can be assured that the packaging of that product is as environmentally friendly as possible.

A single cork stopper is, the informative study concludes, now proven to capture up to 392 grams of CO2. A sparkling wine stopper, meanwhile, can retain even more at 562 grams.

Besides cork thus emphasising its credentials as by far the most eco-friendly of all types of wine closures, these findings means that cork closures can offset the carbon footprint of glass bottles, which on average amount to 400 grams of CO2. This means that in packaging terms, the age-old combination of glass bottle and cork might have been around before the term “naturally sustainable” had been invented, but is today the most effective packaging available to wineries concerned about the wine industry’s carbon footprint.

The properties making cork sustainable from the bark to bottle begins at the cork forests in the Mediterranean basin. Given the fact that more than 70% of the value created by cork overall comes from wine stoppers, without these products, the 2.2 million hectares of native cork forests across seven countries in the Western Mediterranean basin – one of the world’s 36 biodiversity “hot spots” – would not exist as we know them now. And being the last green frontier between Europe and the Sahara desert, the loss of these forests would have dire consequences for the ecology of the European continent.

The magnificent cork oak. Growing sustainably. Harvested sustainably.

For the EY study, impacts relating to the production and consumption of raw materials, plus energy process emissions, water consumption, waste production and transport at each stage were assessed – all of which are considered categories typically used in cork products.

Another element to contributing to cork’s sustainable profile is the aspect of recycling. Hundreds of millions of cork wine stoppers are recycled each year, the cork broken up into granules for various applications. Amorim South Africa alone collects some 1,5m corks for recycling annually.

If one thus looks back at the 150 years of history Amorim is celebrating this year, it becomes clear that the pioneers of the world’s leading cork company were ahead of their time, in more ways they would have thought possible.