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Study: Climate change is reducing quality of wine corks

Courtesy: Flickr/Sam Howzit

Courtesy: Flickr/Sam Howzit

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 5:12 PM - Climate change seems to be ruining all of our favourite things, from chocolate, to wine, to bacon. Now, a new report suggests that the quality of wine corks has been in steady decline for the past twenty years -- and climate change may have something to do with it.

Corks are an important part of the wine bottling process. Bad quality corks allow more oxygen into the bottle which can create acetic acid and give wine a sour taste.

They're made from a tree called Quercus suber -- also referred to as the cork oak -- which only grows in parts of Europe and Africa.

Over the years an increasing number of trees with low quality cork have been popping up. Scientists think it has something to do with increased exposure to UV rays brought about by climate change.

Cork makers require bark that's at least 27 millimeters thick to create their goods, but many of today's trees are producing bark between 3 and 10 millimetres.

RELATED: Could climate change render natural red heads extinct?

A recent study published Tuesday in Journal of Experimental Botany found that "good cork" trees possess a high number of shock proteins, which promote cells that make thicker bark.

"Bad cork" trees possess fewer shock proteins and more genes that absorb UV rays. 

Scientists are looking into genetically engineering cork trees so they can adapt to increased UV exposure while continuing to produce high quality cork. 


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