If there's anything that we love more on a Friday night after work than a cold glass of chardonnay, we're not sure what it is.
And it is wine that always brings corks to our minds.
So, last time we were savoring a glass of white, we suddenly realized we had to know more about cork and we called a botanist friend and asked him about our favorite wine bottle stoppers.
And this is what he told us about this amazing natural material.
So, Cork? What Is It?
Cork and cork products are made from the outer bark of a tree.
Cork bark is harvested in cork forests which are very common around the Mediterranean and they are very important to the biodiversity of the region. And that's an area under real threat at the moment.
They say that more than 200 animals species and 135 plant species depend on our ability to obtain cork from trees. Because without the commercial demand for cork, it is likely that these trees would have been cut down to make room for other forms of agriculture.
Does Cork From A Cork Oak Tree or A Cork Tree?
Nobody is going to object if you call them cork trees but to be correct, cork comes from a cork oak tree.
Those forests are super important for harvesting the bark that makes our cork stoppers.
How Is Cork Made?
It's only the bark that is used in cork production and you make vertical and horizontal cuts into the bark to remove cork slabs.
Over time, the tree heals and the outer layer regrows, thus a cork oak forest is a fully sustainable initiative.
(If all this talk of wine is making you thirsty, check out these best wine-making kits and make some of your own at home, you may need a few cork wine stoppers at that point too).
Before they take cork from a tree it is allowed to mature for 25 years and each time they strip back the bark, the quality of the cork changes.
The lower quality cork comes from the first stripping and is known as virgin cork.
The wine cork for your cork stopper is harvested in the third cork stripping and is known as “amadia cork”.
Why Is Cork Awesome?
Cork is an extremely lightweight material that is water-resistant and fire-resistant and is an environmentally friendly favorite for insulating material.
This is due to the amount of air that is kept in each cell of the cork.
This also lends cork its flexible properties and you can bend and mold cork a lot and see it return easily to its original shape.
Incredibly, the wood is also anti-allergenic and mold resistant which means it can be used in many situations where other woods would simply rot away or cause a physical nuisance to people exposed to them.
What Can Cork Be Used For?
Cork is used in an incredible array of different ways!
Rocket and Space Craft Insulation
Since the 1960s, cork has been boldly going where most men and women have never gone before.
Construction Industry Insulation
It's used for thermal insulation in the construction industry they also use it for thermal insulation and acoustic insulation and for vibration absorption too.
Car Engines and Power Plants
Cork is so durable that it can withstand pressure and temperature like almost no other form of wood and it's used in many situations where other woods would burn or disintegrate.
From wine corks to yoga blocks to notice boards to wallpape, there are an amazing number of cork products in our lives but most of us never even notice its presence.
Is Cork Sustainable?
Yes, well as sustainable as anything can be, of course, there are still costs to transporting and manufacturing with cork but the trees themselves do not die when a harvest is brought in.
The end product is 100% biodegradable and even compostable and it's super easy to recycle too.
If we had to pick up a super material – it could well be cork.
Final Thoughts On Cork And Cork Oak Trees
A cork bottle stopper is certainly better than a plastic stopper and it turns out that cork might be one of the best materials we can use for the planet and because it has many valuable physical properties too.
So, next time you have a glass of wine, maybe give the cork a little toast. It's doing a lot of hard work on our behalf.