Cork is a 100% Natural, Sustainable, and Biodegradable Material in the phellem layer of bark tissue that is harvested for commercial use primarily from the cork oak, which is endemic to southwest Europe and northwest Africa. Cork is composed of Suberin, a hydrophobic substance. Because of its impermeable, buoyant, elastic, and fire retardant properties, it is used in a variety of products, the most common of which is wine stoppers.
The cork industry is generally regarded as environmentally friendly. The Cork production is generally considered sustainable because the cork tree is not cut down to obtain cork; only the bark is stripped to harvest the cork. The tree continues to live and grow. The sustainability of production and the easy recycling of cork products and by-products are two of its most distinctive aspects. Cork oak forests also prevent desertification and are a particular habitat in the Iberian Peninsula and the refuge of various endangered species.
Cork is extracted only from early May to late August, when the cork can be separated from the tree without causing permanent damage. When the tree reaches 25–30 years of age and about 24 in (60 cm) in circumference, the cork can be removed for the first time.
The Whistler Tree
The oldest living and most productive cork tree in the world is called “The Whistler Tree”. It’s name originates from a real Portuguese cork oak tree called “The Whistler”. It’s the oldest and most productive cork oak tree in the world. With approximately 240 years of age, 14 meters in height and a bark with a diameter of 4,15 meters, it’s located in Águas de Moura, Alentejo, in Portugal. The tree is the home and ecosystem for hundreds of species, including many birds (hence the name “Whistler”). The most recent harvest produced 1,2 tons of cork, enough to produce over 100 thousand cork stoppers.
Natural cork closures are used for about 80% of the 20 billion bottles of wine produced each year. After a decline in use as wine-stoppers due to the increase in the use of synthetic alternatives, cork wine-stoppers are making a comeback and currently represent approximately 60% of wine-stoppers today.
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