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Portuguese Corks Meet the Lion’s Share of The World’s Demand!

Cork has become the most demandable wine stopper from time immemorial and Portugal meets the lion’s share of the world’s entire requirement. Apart from Portugal, cork is also harvested in Algeria, Spain, France, Morocco, Italy, and Tunisia. Cork is derived from a specific type of oak tree called cork oak.

Why does cork oak produce a thicker layer of cork bark than other trees or traditional oak trees? These trees evolve themselves to the weather conditions of the Mediterranean and form thicker barks around their stems.

The more interesting information about the fact is still unknown to you. After the pealing of cork bark from the oak tree, what happens to the tree? Most people consider that they are cut down, and the cultivating farmers plant new trees in their places. But it is not!

Do they die or cut off for wood? No, the bark of the cork regenerates after every 9 years and the cultivators get the same cork from the same tree once again.

The recent record-breaking information is that Portuguese cork exports reach a record of €1.133 billion in 2021, and they are aiming to touch the success of €1.5 billion in 2030. Compared to 2020, the status of cork production and export has increased by 12%. Portuguese Cork Association (APCOR) brough out the data to the public.

Cork has become the fastest-growing value-added product segment, allowing the cork sector to resume its growth line, starting from the pre-pandemic, pandemic, and post-pandemic phases. APCOR's general manager João Rui Ferreira uttered this massage in a press release.

Targeting to achieve the goal of €1.5 billion in the year 2030 in exporting cork only would be a nature-friendly approach that highlights a natural and environmentally friendly endeavor that shows the paradigm of sustainability in natural products, which ensures economic, social, and environmental aspects.

Where corks are mostly consumed?

According to the Portuguese Cork Association, France is the largest economy to export wines and the US is the largest consumer of wines. Each of the countries represents more than 18% of the total cork exports- either by consuming or exporting wines.

As per the present data, the top ten consumers of Portuguese cock exports are Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico, Chile China, and Russia.

The association also mentions that the wine industry is the main consumer of cork, and wine stoppers have earned 800 million euros by exporting themselves. More than 73% of the total weight of cork has been exported only for stoppers, showing that the demand for cork in the wine industry is impeccable, either for stopping wines or maturing purposes.

The cork business industry starts

Cork business, especially the production and cultivation processes, is not a business that you can establish overnight. The minimum maturity of the cork oak tree is 25 years (Quercus Suber). It is a quite long period to be ready for its first harvest.

The cork derived from the first harvest is known as virgin cork and cannot be used for preparing wine corks and wine stoppers. The cork derived onwards is great for wine stoppers preparation.

The cork preparation industry targets the wine preparation industry the most. Around 75% of the cork production industries prepare wine stoppers with cork and earns several euro per cork. Champaign bottle corks are also prepared with premium quality corks. Apart from some premium brands that use special crystal fibers for preparing stoppers, cork is considered the best material for wine stoppers as it has some specific benefits that help keep wines good enough for years and help the gradual aging process.  

After the first harvesting of cork, the second cork does not mature enough to harvest after 9 years. Practically, it takes more than 9 years to get the matured cork from the oak tree. To get premium quality corks from an oak tree takes 43 years. This cork is known as the “media” cork.

The happiest news is that it lives between 270 and 300 years. Therefore, 20 or more harvests are possible after its first pealing of cork barks. However, the tree gradually stops producing the premium quality Amadia cork over time. The duration of media cork production is 50 years.

As soon as the Coak Tree starts producing cork at the age of 25, they are not usable as wine stoppers. For the next nine years or up to the age of 34, the corks are not usable for wine bottles. They are used for preparing building materials, and many fashion products.

Cork Harvesting period and procedure

The oak tree produces cork quickly when the weather is warmer. Cork harvesting takes place between May and September. The cork strippers or Tiradors work in pairs to help each other. Specially handled axes are used. One person remains on the ground, and the other person is on the tree. They collaborated work to strip the oak tree to derive cork. Cutting the barks of the top and bottom, they peel together with the axe.  

The tiradors, or cork strippers, earn between €80 to €120 per day as per the capability of peeling the bark of the oak tree. Many people carry on the profession to earn bread and butter for the family. According to the experience, the wages are fixed. Along with the fixed wages, they also get medical benefits and other facilities.

After the cork bark is removed from the cork tree, the bark is left out in the sun for several months to dry.

After drying, the cork is boiled and pressed to make it spread. Boiling kills bacteria or insects in the cork. After boiling, the cork spreads and becomes a workable shape.

This time, the cork is checked manually, whether any fungus or bacterial infections are available in the cork. Any bacterial sign indicates that the cork is unusable for wine bottles. This infected cork is, however, usable for other purposes after it is ground down.

This time, the cork is separated into different batches, based on the quality, color, and thickness of the cork. Thick corks are selected to make the stoppers of wine bottles. The best cork for wine bottle stoppers will have no holes, thick and weighty.

How wine corks are prepared

Previously, the cork stoppers were made with a manual cutting tool. After pressing with a hammer, the cork would become the wine stoppers. Then they were polished to send to market. Now, wine stopper manufacturing machines (cork punching machines) separate the stoppers evenly, and fast. Professionals get them fast to deliver them to the customers.

Filling of cork holes

Cork is not even and has lots of holes. The inbuilt pores are not harmful but the holes created by the worm and other reasons need to be blocked by the cork dust. Some wine stoppers are made with cork dust pressing and no solid cork bark. They are low in quality and get broken when opening the bottle of wine. These corks are used to make the stoppers for low-quality wines, the bottles that are not stored for maturing.

The data shows that Italy imports cheaper corks, inspiring the idea to make screwcaps for premium wines and low-budget corks for low-quality wines. On the contrary, France is the biggest buyer of high-quality wine stopper corks.

What about the champagne cork? It is typically different from wine stoppers. They are made of three-layered disks glued together and polished. Isn’t it amazing?

Does the champaign touch the glue?

Don’t worry the champaign of the bottle does not touch the glue. The bottom layer creates a barrier and stops passing it to the upper layer.

What are the uses of the cork?

The cork producers have found many other ways to use the cork. You know premium and medium-quality oak barks are used for wine stoppers. The rest of the cork is used for some creative works such as floor designing, furniture, or yoga mats.

          Fashionable products

Corks are a versatile and unique material. With cork, craftsmen can prepare wallets, fashionable handbags, and more. Apart from these two items, you will also get cork phone cases, covers for a passport, shoes, and more. The craftsmen are researching on preparing almost everything with it.

         Cork Purse

Amazing! Some fashion product designers have gone a little over the top (OTT) for their craftsmanship in preparing cork purses and similar fashion items. Their artistic creativity makes everybody amazed at the fact that cork can be used to prepare things for everyday use.

Are you feeling an intense desire to learn more and more about the cork industry and its versatile usage? Then, you can arrange Cork Factory Tours! There, you will learn everything you have learned here.

In addition, if you want to prepare top-quality wine or scampish bottle cork at an affordable cost, contact World Wine Bottles & Packaging Solutions! Visit us, and learn the rest!