Cork… ever wonder where it comes from? Portugal! Cork is a unique substance and the perfect closure for wine. A totally natural product, cork is environmentally friendly, renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable. There is enough cork today in the forests of Portugal to last more than 100 years. Under a reforestation program, Portugal’s cork forests are now growing by four percent a year on average.
To produce cork, a cork oak (Quercus Suber, or Sobreiro in Portuguese) must be at least 25 years old. A cork oak can live as long as two centuries. To harvest the cork, the outer bark is stripped from a cork oak once every nine years. The tree is protected by an inner bark, which is always left on the tree. The harvested bark is boiled and purified. The corks are then punched.
Portugal’s cork oak woodlands, known as “montados”, have been used to produce cork and graze livestock for centuries, making them a haven for wildlife. Forty-two bird species depend on them, including the endangered Spanish imperial eagle as well as rare species such as the black vulture and black stork. Smaller birds, such as robins, finches and song thrushes migrate to the cork forests of southern Portugal from northern Europe, along with blackcaps from the United Kingdom. In spring and summer, the cork forests are home to a rich variety of butterflies and plants, with more than 60 plant species recorded in just one square meter. In more remote parts of these protected lands, the rare Iberian lynx can still be found.