Portugal makes 40 million cork wine stoppers a day. We visited a cork forest to see how they’re made.
Cork has been used as a wine stopper for centuries and is still the stopper of choice for a large majority of top-quality wines.
These corks come from the outer layer of the oak tree, which eventually grows back.
Portugal is a primary producer of the material. It has the largest cork oak forest by area in the world.
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The process of harvesting the cork oak takes precision, years of practice, and a good axe.
In the Alentejo region of Portugal, workers spend their summers delicately removing the outer layers of the trees by hand before sending them to be processed into something more recognizable: cork.
Natural cork has been used in winemaking for centuries and is still the stopper of choice for 89% of Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines.
Portugal has the largest cork oak forest by area in the world.
While it takes around 15 years for a cork oak tree to grow its first layer of cork, it is harvested in cycles of nine years. And only from the third harvesting on — or 27 years later — the raw material called amadia cork is ready for processing.
Cork worker Simão Fortio started harvesting cork when he was 15 years old. At 45, he has been harvesting cork for over 30 years. He explained that he and other workers harvest the cork during the summer with axes. Oftentimes, men work in pairs to help each other, “very carefully not to harm the tree.”
“It’s very difficult. It takes a lot of knowledge to remove the cork without hurting the tree,” Fortio said.
Portugal is the world leader not only in cork extraction, harvesting 100,000 tons of it a year, but also in selling cork products.
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Source:: Business Insider