July 27, 2015
While speaking about Cork, what comes first to your mind? Wine stoppers, isn't it? But during a visit in Portugal, you will notice that markets and handcraft shops have a wide range of products made of cork… Portugal produces more than half of cork consumed throughout the world, let's discover the Portuguese know-how and find you a nice souvenir from Portugal...
Cork is made from the bark of cork oak trees, majestic trees which grow mostly in Mediterranean regions, such as Spain, Morocco and Portugal. Cork harvesting required patience and softness; Patience because it takes 25 years for a cork oak to start producing cork, then it will provide new cork bark every 9 years for an average of 200 years long. Softness, while cork oaks are considered as National Heritage, and shall not be damaged by the harvest.
Cork has many properties: light, waterproof, versatile, and is an excellent thermal and acoustics insulator. During the Age of Discoveries, the builders of Portuguese ships and caravels used cork oak wood for the parts that were most exposed to inclement weather, since besides being exceptionally strong, it never rotted. The cork oak is characteristic of the Alentejo Region; there, enjoy the enchanting landscapes crawling with noble cork oaks.
Portugal is proud to have the largest area of cork oak forest in the world (33% of the world total) and intends to conserve them. For centuries, it has been illegal to cut down or damage the trees in order to harvest cork. The noble tree not only produces oxygen but also retains carbon dioxide, and even more if they are harvested regularly. Moreover transformation of cork requires no additional products.
But what can be made from cork? It might be faster to ask what cannot be made with cork! Cork is a very good construction material. But the Portuguese markets and handcraft shops are also filled with products made of cork: handbag, wallet, belt, jewellery, postcard and even clothes. Artists make fantastic pieces of art with cork as well!
During your next tour in Portugal, be curious and have a look at the wonderful know-how of Portuguese cork handcrafter, or just enjoy the divine sound of a natural cork stopper popping out a good Portuguese wine bottle…