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The cork 0 Comments

The cork

On both sides of the road, oak woods follow one another and the nude tree trunks are brick-red where they have been already harvested. We are going to Tempio Pausania, the capital of Gallura, an hour's drive from Gabbiano Azzurro Hotel & Suites, 63 km far, which is the most important center of both Sardinia and Italy for the production, processing, and marketing of cork.

The cork has fascinated man ever since: some studies date the origin of the cork-oak roughly 60 million years ago and it survived the Ice Age 25 million years ago thanks to the thermal protection of its bark.

Archaeologists have found evidence of the use of cork since 1300 BC when the Egyptians used it to make domestic tools, floats for fishing and container closures. In the V century BC, the Greeks closed the amphorae with corks. In the IV century BC, the Romans used it to isolate the roofs, to close the containers and for the insoles in the footwear. Also in France, several amphorae from the 3rd century BC were discovered, which, being corked, have kept the wine still in good condition.

Later in the XV and XVI centuries in Portugal, the first documents regulating both the utilization and the commercialization of cork were found. Cork was also used for the caravels that at the time were discovering the unknown world.  In Italy, the first ones to widely use cork were the Sardinians: they protected their utensils from the humidity, they realized stools and benches and various containers for everyday use. Today the cork-oak in Sardinia is present in an area of 90 thousand hectares.

Legend has it that in the seventeenth century, the Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Pérignon, after discovering the way to make sparkling wine, was the first in the north of France to use corks to close the bottles of his wines. In fact it was precisely the perfect conservation that made the wines of the Champagne region precious. From this moment onwards, the development of the cork industries began, both in Europe and in the United States. 

In our century, cork has been used in the automotive industry, in the latest generations of transport, aeronautics, and aerospace.

But what is cork? It is the outer bark, called secondary, covering the trunk of the Quercus Suber tree, typical of the Mediterranean.

Cultivating it requires knowledge and attention not to harvest trees below 10 years of age, to avoid their deterioration. Cork harvesting doesn’t harm the tree, as only the bark is removed, while a new layer of cork will regrow, making it a renewable resource. From the male cork a less valuable quality it is obtained, while the female tree’s cork is of greater commercial quality. Harvesting operation is repeated after another 10 years and the life of the oak grove can be up to over a hundred years. The cork oaks, manage to survive the fires thanks to their insulating bark that saves the tree-soul.

Having learned the history of cork during this interesting trip makes me aware of the value of each cork-cap that I will treat, from now on, with greater respect!

“The soft extractive note of an aged cork being withdrawn has the true sound of a man opening his heart.” - (William S. Benwell)

 

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Written by Daniela Toti

 

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