A comment we get every day from visitors to the store is, "But I thought there was a cork shortage? I heard cork was going extinct!". If you thought the same you are not alone. This is one of the most common myths about cork and I would dare say a calculated and misleading effort to keep the myth alive is ongoing. Here is why...
Portugal, where the majority of the world's cork oak trees grow, suffered a massive forest fire in 2003. The interesting thing about cork is that it is mother nature's answer to forest fire because cork is a very good fire retardant. The fires caused an obvious delay in the harvesting of cork that year and wineries feared the cork exposed to the fires could taint the wine so the scramble to find closures led them to screw caps and synthetic options.
Cork is harvested by hand and uses no heavy machinery, making cork rather expensive when compared to its synthetic and screw capped alternatives. For this reason, many wineries saw a huge opportunity to save up to $1.30 per bottle by sticking with the synthetic versions however any wine drinker will agree, we want real corks! So if the wineries wanted to convince its cork loving wine buyers that synthetics and screw caps are the way to go, they must first give us a reason.
In 1923, the cork oak tree was named endangered by the Portuguese government. This was in an effort to protect the tree (which is the national economy of Portugal) from land owners cutting down trees in favor of development. It was able to be named as endangered because of the over 200 species of wildlife that depend on the cork oak forest, many of which are endangered themselves.
So the wineries used this terminology to their advantage and when asked why the stoppers were synthetic vs the traditional and preferred cork their answer was simply, "Because cork is endangered" leading most people to believe endangered = shortage and voila! The myth took hold and still does to this day.
In another upcoming post I will write about the comparison of real cork to synthetic and why synthetics cannot be used in wines that better with age, but until then our short video above speaks to the topic of just how much cork is available today and why it is so important that we keep harvesting the trees, regardless of the profit margin concerns of wineries!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda Dailey, AKA The Queen of cork, resides in New Orleans, LA and educates the masses on the benefits of cork. She and Julie Araujo co-own QUEORK which has retail locations in 3 states and specializes in handbags, shoes, and accessories made using real cork made into a leather-like fabric.