A cork made from sugar cane? Yes! These are plant-based synthetic corks made from non-GMO sugar cane and are manufactured by the Nomacorc company in Brazil. The manufacture has developed these as a natural cork alternative and states they offer a zero-carbon footprint. They also reference them to be 100% recyclable and have consistent oxygen control. They have a look and feel similar to synthetic cork.
These new innovative corks are now in use at the Southwest Wine Center in the 2017 Viognier and their 100% Malvasia. The college is also using them in the new Passport, a Viognier and Malvasia blend and expects to use them in and all of the 2017 whites to be bottled.
These corks as a choice of bottle closure are another addition to the mission of ecology and sustainability that is a major goal at Yavapai College.
The Southwest Wine Center is an adaptive reuse project, which is a process that adapts buildings for new uses while retaining their original features. The building where the tasting room, fermentation, aging and bottling are done was formerly a racquet ball court! One goal of their project is to use 50% less power than an average Arizona home. Their roof also collects rain water for irrigation and other uses. When I take my private wine tours to the facility, I love pointing out the rock walls, which were created utilizing rocks cleared out from the vineyard land.
The corks are currently being used on just the white wines. It will be interesting to see how this newer material will maintain the wines while supporting our environment.
The Verde Valley is home to a winery that utilizes all organic practices. One of the fun experiences about visiting this winery is hearing the geese cackle and seeing all of the critters that roam through the vineyard. Clear Creek Vineyards has a multitude of cats that chase after and eat gophers. Gophers can be very destructive to the vines root systems. My daughter has had to set many a gopher trap at the Yavapai College vineyard and finds it depressing to clean out the traps of the dead animals. That’s why utilizing the cats is a wonderful solution. They are well fed and solve the gopher problem!
The geese and chickens love eating insects which may be harmful to the vines and their droppings add natural fertilizer to the soil. The snakes love rodents and insects also. Therefore, it’s wonderful to see an alternative solution to utilizing chemicals and experience the sounds and sights of the animals.
While on a wine tour of our Viticulture and Enology program at the Southwest Wine Center at Yavapai College, in Clarkdale, Arizona, my guests and I were amazed to learn that this teaching winery is contemplating utilizing a sugar cane cork for some of their rose’ and white wines.
What is a sugar cane cork? They are plant-based synthetic corks made from non-GMO sugar cane and are manufactured by the Nomacorc company in Brazil. These corks are marketed as 100% recyclable with zero carbon footprint and consistent oxygen control. I personally haven’t seen one yet, but they are reported to have a similar appearance to natural cork.
Sustainability is a driving force for many of the vineyards and winemakers in Arizona, and the choice of wine bottle closures is no exception.
Substitutions for natural cork have been going on for quite a few years and we’ve seen movement towards synthetic corks and metal screw tops, both of which are not the best choice for sustainability and our environment.
It will be interesting to see how these new corks will be received and how this newer material will maintain and age the wines, prevent TCA, and impact sustainability.
Sue Schurgin is the manager of Sedona Wine and Beer Tours. She is studying for her CSW and sommelier certifications.