6/2/08

Meet the Cork Oak


Let me introduce you to Quercus suber, the Cork Oak tree.

Yes, this is where your wine corks (not the synthetic ones, folks!) come from.

Home of the Cork Oak (not to be confused with the Cork tree) is northwest Africa and southwest Europe. Portugal is the largest single producer of cork, responsible for 50% of the world’s harvest, followed by Spain, Algeria and Morocco.

Here’s how it works: The trees are planted and allowed to grow for several years, generally about 40, before the bark becomes viable for harvesting. The bark is then hand cut in strips and removed for manufacture. In 10 to 12 years, the tree will be ready for another bark harvesting, making cork a sustainable resource. The trees themselves generally live to the 200 – 250 year range, with some occasionally lasting twice that.

About 60% of cork production goes to the various stoppers. Other products include fishing floats, musical instrument parts and the ever-popular bulletin boards.

There you have it – the magical world of cork. Next time you raise a glass of wine, make a toast to the cork farmers and their amazing Cork Oak trees.

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