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Help Put a Cork in Global Warming!

(post, Willamette Valley Vineyards)

As Oregonians we treasure our environment, our ancient and managed forests. 

The cork forests of the Mediterranean are second to the Amazon Forest in importance to the world's biosphere. These forests are in danger. The increased use of plastic stoppers and aluminum screw caps are reducing the use of natural cork- increasing the danger of global warming. Cork trees naturally remove carbon from the air and sequester it in their bark - am pump oxygen back into the atmosphere. If we choose wine sealed with natural cork, we help the environment. Conversely, aluminum ore mining and processing, using high levels of electricity, is resulting in substantial negative ecological effects. The same is true of petroleum-based plastic stopper manufacturing. 

Jim Bernau

P.S. Plus, as wine ages in the bottle, high quality natural cork is the best for wine quality.


As one of Oregon’s premier wineries, Willamette Valley Vineyards maintains a commitment of the stewardship for the land we use.  Our sustainable efforts include organic certification from Oregon Tilth, LIVE and Salmon Safe certification, using 100% biodiesel with all winery equipment (including 50 gallons per month of biodiesel to employees), and being the first winery in the world to receive certification from the Rainforest Alliance for using 100% Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified cork.  In keeping with this environmental philosophy we have created a cork recycling program that not only recycles wine corks, we do so with zero increase to our carbon footprint.

A first for Oregon and a model for wineries around the world, this program is a two-fold.  First to collect and recycle the corks and second to educate the public about the importance of sustaining the cork forests of Portugal, Spain and other cork producing countries.  There are 15 billion corks produced every year for the wine industry, 99% of them end up in landfills.  This is a trend we must reverse.

In partnership with Whole Foods, The Rainforest Alliance, Bacchus Fine Wines and Western Pulp, we will collect and recycle wine corks in the following manner:

Recycling boxes are placed in Whole Foods Markets in Portland and Bend.  When our Oregon distributor (Bacchus) delivers wine, they pick up the cork and return it to our warehouse.  The cork is then transported to Western Pulp in Corvallis, OR when we deliver wine to our Corvallis warehouse.  Western Pulp produces a packaging shipper for the wine industry to protect wine bottles for shipping to direct sales customers.  These shippers are now being made with 100% recycled newspaper.

Through a joint partnership with Willamette Valley Vineyards, Western Pulp has developed a system for adding ground cork to the manufacturing of the shipper (10%).  The cork will be given to Western Pulp at no cost.  Though the testing and evaluation process is ongoing, there is a high degree of confidence that these shippers will be viable product for Western Pulp and the wine industry.  This program is another example of Western Pulp’s commitment to sustainability and the ecological health of our planet.

The second part of the program is to educate the public concerning the sustainability of the Mediterranean cork forests.  The cork recycling box will have a display card with an information sheet (on a tear-away pad that can be taken by the customer) debunking common misconceptions concerning cork harvesting, the sustainability of the cork forests and the global environmental and economic impact of the cork forests.

Cork Facts

- Cork is a natural, renewable, recyclable and biodegradable material that is obtained through an environmentally friendly harvesting process.

- Trees are not cut down to harvest cork, rather, the bark is stripped by hand every 9-12 years. Cork oak trees can live up to 300 years!

- Approximately 6.6 million acres extending across Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Morocco, Italy, Tunisia and France, the cork oak forests support one of the world's highest levels of forest biodiversity, second only to the Amazon Rainforest.

- Opting for screw caps and plastic stoppers directly causes the loss of sustainable livelihoods as the cork forests are a vital source of income for thousands of families.

- Willamette Valley Vineyards is the first winery in the world to receive Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification through the Rainforest Alliance/SmartWood.

Corks collected will continue to be used in the wine industry as they are utilized to produce molded fiber wine shippers. With our partners and your help, we can have a significant impact in saving the cork forests and reuse this remarkable natural resource.