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sao marcos da serra, park

nothing beats the plop of a real cork stopper

Posted by Marianne on Saturday, July 30, 2011 Under: news and information

The use of cork dates back to the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks, but the father of cork is Dom Pérignon who started using cork to seal his sparkling wine bottles in the mid-1600s. Pérignon was a French Abbot residing at the Hautvillers monastery who was trying to find a new sealing solution to replace using wooden bungs wrapped in hemp to seal bottles. His innovation launched a new industry which today employs 100,000 people in the Mediterranean. Large scale cork production was first recorded in Portugal in 1700.

Natural cork is made of very small cells: 750 million per cork stopper. This characteristic makes natural cork the most effective material for closing bottles as it is light, elastic, resistant, impermeable and easy to remove. Despite advances in technology, man has yet to be able to duplicate this incredibly complex structure.  The average cork oak tree produces one tonne of raw cork which equates to 65,000 stoppers.

According to the Portuguese Cork Association, the production of petroleum-based plastic wine bottle stoppers causes fifty percent more global warming pollution than does the manufacture of natural cork stoppers, and the production of metal screw caps for wine bottles produces anywhere from three to five times as much global warming pollution, depending on how much recycled content is mixed into the metal production process.

Perhaps even more importantly, the traditional production of natural cork is an environmentally superior process which supports the preservation of grassland forests, Mediterranean biodiversity, small-scale agriculture, and fast-disappearing cultural traditions. 

The agricultural workers who harvest cork, a peaceful, non-polluting, small-scale commercial culture that has been practiced almost the same way for centuries, are among the highest paid agricultural field workers in the world, earning between 80 Euros to 120 Euros per day. The workers are provided with medical health care insurance and worker’s compensation insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits for the rare few who might get injured in the course of employment. The workers are sensibly paid not on the amount of weight they rush through to harvest, but instead are paid based on a fixed daily wage, in order to assure that they perform their harvesting work with due regard for the health of the trees.

At the moment the cork season is at its peak.  As of the first new moon of May the cork peelers of São Marcos da Serra are working hard to harvest the cork, like they have done for many many years, with an axe in their hand.   

If you like to learn more about cork (cortiça) and the cork oak tree (sobreiro), have a look at the cork page of this website.


In : news and information 

Tags: cork  cork stopper  wine 
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