"There's a cork shortage!". "Aren't cork trees endangered?"
For many of us in North America, these are some of the first things that come to mind when people think of cork. That said, we can assure you that these claims are not accurate.
Just to clear things up right away - there’s an abundance of cork. Although the majority of cork trees grow in a relatively small portion of the globe, there's enough cork on the planet Today to seal all the wine in the World for the next 100 years.
So where did the myth come from?
You’ve probably noticed that most wine bottles now come with a screw cap instead of a traditional cork stopper. This for good reason:
Cork is hand harvested only once per year by skilled farmers, making it a much more expensive material compared to synthetic screw cap alternatives. It was for this reason that the wine industry saw a huge opportunity to cut costs. Recent studies also show that screw caps do a better job of preserving the wine itself.
That said, wineries needed a reason to convince you that screw caps were the way to go. And just like that - the misleading “cork shortage” rumor was born.
In the last ten years, the increase in screw caps has created a decrease in demand for real corks. The cork industry has become endangered because of this - not the trees themselves.
With the wine industry moving away from the cork, other uses for the amazing material are on the rise. Because it is impermeable, lightweight and moisture-resistant, cork handbags and wallets are becoming popular leather alternatives. You’ll also find cork being used for flooring, shoes and other vegan fashion accessories.
A Few Facts About Cork Trees:
- They can live up to 300 years old.
- You can’t harvest cork from a cork tree until it’s 25 years old.
- When harvested, the trees are not cut down, the bark of the tree is stripped away by hand.
- Harvesting the bark actually helps the cork trees grow faster and live longer.
- Once harvested, farmers mark the trees to make sure they aren't harvested for another 9-10 years.
- Cork farmers are some of the highest paid workers in Portugal.
- It's illegal to cut down a cork tree in Portugal.