British Royal the Prince of Wales has said synthetic bottle closures are 'nasty' and a threat to the environment.

Speaking at an awards ceremony in Germany – where he was picking up a prize for his work in protecting the environment – Prince Charles said, ‘Quite why anyone would want to encounter a nasty plastic plug in the neck of a wine bottle is beyond me.’

Charles was in Lubeck to receive the 2002 Euronatur Award. In a wide-ranging speech he also condemned the depletion of North Sea fish stocks, and spoke out against governments which supported GM research.

He condemned the use of synthetic stoppers in wine bottles, claiming it was destroying wildlife habitats – ‘dehasas’, or meadowlands – in Spain and Portugal, where practically all cork is produced.

‘The dehasas provide a rich and varied wildlife habitat, particularly for birds and butterflies. But all this is under threat,’ he said.

UK wine writer and screwcap champion Malcolm Gluck told decanter.com he thought the Prince was ill-informed.

‘He knows nothing about wine, and nothing about the average consumer. It is complete rubbish to suggest the dehasas are being destroyed by the use of plastic stoppers. Cork has a thousand uses apart from going into the neck of bottles. It is irresponsible – he should be properly briefed and not fall for such twaddle.’

Anne-Marie Bostock, category manager for wine at UK supermarket Tesco, which has persuaded several major Australian producers to put their wines under screwcap, said they were only concerned with quality.

‘If there was no issue with cork taint, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We try to guarantee quality for our customers.’

Adding that Tesco took pride in its credentials as an environmentally responsible company, Bostock said that it was understood cork plantations were projected to increase significantly. ‘Cork producers believe there is a market for their product.’

Henrique Martins, chairman of APCOR, the Portuguese Cork Association, said in a statement they were ‘deeply encouraged’ by the Prince’s views.

‘The Prince of Wales is clearly enlightened to the extraordinary ecosystem provided by the cork oak forests. We just hope that consumers are given the right to choose. That labelling and packaging make it clear what closure is used in the bottle.’

Written by Adam Lechmere12 June 2002