Willamette Valley Vineyards, of Turner, Oregon, is set to become the first winery in the world to use cork stoppers harvested from forestlands certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The winery was recently awarded "FSC Chain-of-Custody certification" by the Rainforest Alliance.
Willamette Valley Vineyards annually produces some 100,000 cases of wine, mostly Pinot Noir. Starting with the 2006 vintage Pinot Noir to be bottled in July 2007, the winery will begin using FSC-certified cork stoppers in all its bottles. The corks will be imprinted with the FSC and Rainforest Alliance logo, and bottle labels will also bear both certification seals.
The corks will come from one of four currently FSC-certified cork forests, three of which were certified by the Rainforest Alliance, the first of which being Fruticor -- a group of small landowners and managers -- that was certified by the Rainforest Alliance in early 2005 in the Alentejo region of Portugal.
"Cork stoppers that come from responsibly managed forestlands are the only choice for wineries that want to have a positive environmental and social impact," said Jamie Lawrence, European Forestry Division Manager for the Rainforest Alliance. "Willamette's commitment to supporting responsible cork production in rural communities in the Mediterranean is commendable and progressive, fitting of a world-class winery that focuses on making sustainable choices."
The Rainforest Alliance was responsible for awarding FSC certification at each step throughout the process, beginning with certifying the worlds first cork forest in 2005, later certifying the cork manufacturing facilities, owned by the Amorim Group, and now certifying Willamette Valley Vineyards to help achieve this global first in the wine industry.
Carlos de Jesus, marketing and communications director for Amorim & Irmaos S.A., the world's largest cork processor and the first FSC-certified cork company, congratulated Willamette on its certification. "We would like to emphasize the unique role that natural cork plays in responding to the market demands for environmentally and socially responsible wine closures," de Jesus said in a press release. "The wine industry is responding to a demand by informed consumers that is resulting in the conservation of fragile ecosystems and the reduction of the industry's carbon footprint."
According to the Rainforest Alliance, the use of cork is "essential to protect the environment as wineries are increasingly using plastic stoppers and aluminum screw caps due to concerns about tainting, oxidation and leakage."
Cork oak landscapes cover about 2.7 million hectares of land in Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Morocco, Italy, Tunisia and France.