Kendall-Jackson Blog > Sustainability > What Type of Corks Do We Use?

What Type of Corks Do We Use?

Natural and Synthetic Corks

Did you know that we use natural corks, synthetic corks and screw caps? Well, we do and a few people have wondered why we’re supporting cork recycling when we use multiple “closure” types. I’m happy to share with you how we decide what closures to use, but before I do, I think it’s worth making one comment. I’ll try to do with an analogy:

Suppose that at home you’ve figured out how to increase your recycling, use natural cleaners and are buying organic foods, but you’re still putting your lettuce into plastic bags so it won’t get the gross stuff on it from the grocery cart. Should you share with your friends how you figured out these greener choices, or because you’re not perfect should you bite your tongue?

Well, like most people, we’re challenging ourselves to be a more responsible. But, just like at home, it just doesn’t happen overnight does it? Almost all national wine brands use a variety of closures for some good reasons. It would be a shame if we sat on the sidelines rather than taking a leadership position and trying to make a difference wherever we can.

Cork Taint

We moved most of our white wines to a synthetic cork about 7 years ago for wine quality reasons – quality is paramount for us. We made the change because the cork we were getting had inconsistent and elevated levels trichloroanisole, or TCA, that gives wine undesirable smells and tastes.

This was a huge decision for us, given that we’re a more traditional, family-owned winery and not many wineries were using synthetic corks at the time. At the end of the day, our winemakers convinced the marketing team that consumers cared more about Kendall-Jackson’s reputation for quality and consistency than what type of cork was in the bottle. Our red wines have remained in natural cork due to the diminished effects of low level TCA on those wines and we currently use over 29,000,000 natural corks per year.

Since our change over to synthetic there have been drastic improvements in TCA measurement and control from suppliers and now with a new control system installed at our bottling line, we feel there is real opportunity to move back to natural corks for our whites. We have a new procurement manager, Mike Eaton, who’s been examining our options for natural corks.

I’ll be interviewing Mike for a post soon on Environmentally Preferred Purchasing (EPP). We’ll talk about the three old-school purchasing factors of quality, price and availability and how a new factor, environmental performance, plays into our purchasing decisions. You can probably imagine it plays out – much the same way you might make decisions at the grocery store.

I hope that in light of the fact that we do put so many natural corks into consumer’s hands now — and may be 100% natural again soon — that people understand we do indeed have an honest desire to diminish this impact on the environment. This includes our current investigation into how synthetic corks can also be collected and recycled.

We’ve just been at this for two years and things take time to change. It would be my wish that we could flip the switch and be the perfect sustainable company over night. All change management does require measured implementation or it will throw the business off track and the benefits of the new changes would be lost as the company struggles.

Our support for cork recycling is a minor component of our very deep Sustainability program begun in the fall of 2008. In that time we’ve invested millions of dollars into energy and water efficiency in a challenging economic environment. To date we’re now conserving 9,268,000 kWh annually through the processes and equipment we’ve installed. Additionally, we’ve purchased 8,466,000 kWh of renewable energy. These combine to equal 2,825 homes annual usage or emissions from almost 1.5M gallons of gasoline.

We’ve invested substantially in developing new green technology in association with University of California Davis, California Food & Drug Admin. and PG&E. We’ve also just been offered two grants to take new technology to the commercial level to reduce water use and CO2 emissions for the wine industry and beyond. The Jackson family has donated over $3M to UC Davis for the new LEED Platinum Winery and the new Jackson Sustainable Technology building to be built later this year. I speak regularly to share our experiences, both positive and negative, to help multiply our efforts.

CATEGORY: Sustainability

  • http://www.thecorkscrewdiary.tv The Toasted Hostess

    Cheers to you for all of the sustainable efforts you are maintaining. A company of your size and scale has a profound impact on the manner in which the entire industry might better share the global eco-economy.

    Thank you.

    • Robert

      Thanks for your kind thoughts! I’m the first to admit that we’re not perfect, but feel pretty good about what we’ve accomplished in a couple of years. The fun thing is thinking about the future and how much more we have left to do and the impact it will have on both how we do things and how it can help others get the ball rolling when we share it with them!

      Very best-Robert

  • Green Girl

    I think it’s great that you’re sharing what you’ve done and how you still need to improve. Nobody should be punished for not being perfect- it’s when we give up on improvement that we’re guilty. Your company is clearly going heading in the right direction, and all the more kudos to you for sharing what you’ve been learning long the way.

  • SLC

    I applaud your choice of closures as they have served your wines well for the past 8 years that I have been a loyal consumer. There are many reasons people buy what they buy, but I purchase because I know that every single time I will get what I expect, that same wonderful flavor Chardonnay that I have grown to love!

  • Robert

    Green Girl and SLC.

    Life is fast paced and it doesn’t matter if you’re a hard-core professional or stay at home mom, getting a “good job” doesn’t come often unless you’re under 10 years old – so thank you! We’ll keep trying to make sure every bottle tastes great for you, and is also something you feel is making another small difference in our collective future. Very best-Robert

  • http://www.nomacorc.com Jeffrey Slater

    Robert,

    Really informative post – thanks for your insights into Kendall-Jackson’s closure selection and your continued efforts to become more environmentally sustainable. Contrary to what many people assume about a synthetic closure manufacturer, at Nomacorc we share in KJ’s desire to be responsible stewards of the environment. Our closures are 100 percent recyclable (US: RIC 4) and we recycle all our scrap material. We recently started shipping our raw materials and finished products by rail instead of truck to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Our closures also use significantly less energy and water in production than natural and technical corks. Through innovation and engineering advancements, we’ve introduced products that have reduced our own carbon footprint by 25% (screw caps have a carbon footprint almost triple that of Nomacorc closures). We’re always looking for ways to improve our own environmental impact, and like you, we’re are always open to ideas and suggestions. We anticipate continued product advancements that will further reduce our environmental impact. By the way, Nomacorc is the lowest density synthetic closure and one of the lightest weight closures available (our products are made from low density foam and close to 70% air).

    As you and the team at KJ are investigating synthetic cork collection and recycling, you might be interested to know that we’ve partnered with TerraCycle (www,terracycle.net) since 2009 to help collect wine closures and “upcycle” them using an even lower-energy process than traditional recycling. Through retail chains like Specs (Texas) and ABC (Florida), we collect natural and alternative closures – not just our own synthetic corks – and have collected more than 4 million closures so far. We are also announcing today a new program with Total Wine too.

    While some advancements have been made to control cork taint in wine, there is still an awful lot of wine being ruined due to TCA (about 1 million bottles every day – 3% of 12 billion natural/technical corks). Our passion lies with the winemaker and helping to create consistent, high-quality, taint-free wine just as the winemaker intends. Nomacorc is second to none in providing a closure with the most consistent protection of wine. We are thrilled that we have been able to support Kendall-Jackson over the last eight years, and look forward to a continued partnership.

    Cheers to good wine!
    Jeff Slater, Director of Global Marketing at Nomacorc

  • Katherine Ostiguy

    Hi,
    I love your Chardonnay and have a question about the synthetic corks. Would there be any latex in your corks.

    Thank you

  • Luigi

    Natural cork is ecofriendly.. Cork trees are not harmed and live for hundreds of years. Non-toxic ; unlike synthetic chemical corks

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