Cork oak forests cover around 5.4 million hectares in 7 Mediterranean countries which are Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Italy and France.
These trees, which have been part of the landscape for centuries, are the perfect example of what Man and nature can accomplish together. Cork oak comes from an ancestral responsible culture, intelligent and useful.
These large spaces also host a great diversity of wild animals, such as the Iberian lynx, the imperial eagle and the barbarous deer, which makes them quite remarkable places, where man and nature coexist.
Cork oak forests play an important ecological role in its arid zones, because their roots retain water, fertilize and stabilize the soil and therefore slow down desertification and global warming.
These landscapes help offset greenhouse gas emissions, because these tall trees absorb large amounts of CO2, especially when they are young because they grow faster.
You should also know that a cork oak whose bark has been harvested consumes up to 5 times more carbon dioxide to regenerate.
The cork harvest is ancestral, and is one of the best examples of a blend of traditions and sustainable development, transmitted to new generations. Harvesting and shaping cork requires real know-how, which has been passed down from generation to generation since the Greek times.
The harvest of the bark of the cork oak is done every 9 years, at the end of spring, and at the beginning of summer. At this time, when the bark swells with turgid water, it becomes brittle and easily detaches from the trunk without being damaged.e.
The thicker and harder parts are used for insulation and floors. The softer parts are intended for stoppers and ... vegetable cork leather!
It takes 25 years on average for a tree to produce good quality bark for wine corks. But we will be able to harvest its cork bark for 200 years!
PROCESS OF FABRICATION
No tree suffers in the production of cork.
Of the 5.4 million hectares of cork oak forests, 33 are located in Portugal and 23 in Spain..
The annual production is around 340,000 tonnes.
Spain and especially Portugal, together account for nearly 85 of world production.
A vertical crack is made on the trunk. Simultaneously, with a twist of the ax, the cork bark is separated from the bark. At this stage, it's all about knowing how to do it. The experienced harvester will know if the task will be arduous from the sound of the ax on the bark.
The cork is then harvested by inserting the ax between the trunk and the bark.
With a horizontal cut, the size of the cork board is indicated. This is the only time of harvest that can inflict slight damage to the bark and lead to changes in the geometry of the trunk.
The cork bark is gently detached from the tree, so as not to break it. The larger the cut, the greater the value of the cork board.
The process is repeated until there is no more harvestable bark on the trunk.
After extracting the bark, bark is always left at the base of the trunk, which allows it to regenerate more quickly.
The tree is marked in white paint with the date of the last extraction to better manage the harvests. Every 9 years a new layer of cork bark will be ready to be harvested.
After harvesting, the boards are stored in the forest or near the tree. We let them rest the boards in the open air, in the sun or in the rain. The storage of the boards meets very strict rules. The rest of the boards must last at least six months.