Cork being a 100% natural product it has many wonderful properties and is the preferred stopper for quality wines worldwide. The durability of the cork can perhaps best be illustrated by the discovery in 2010 of  cargo of Champagne bottles being recovered from a shipwreck on the sea bed of the Baltic and found to still have a wonderfully rich taste, if not actually have the bubbles anymore. The strapline Real Cork, Real Wine being used for marketing purposes adds again to its appeal.

Img-corkstoppers  Img-RealWinRealCorks  Img-APCOR-FashionOver 100,000 cork stoppers from one                                                 Cork used in fashion 
harvest in 1991 off the Whistler Cork tree                                                                                           image: © APCOR
Visit APCOR for much more on Cork and 
its applications.

Portugal produces around half of all cork annually harvested worldwide and it is a significant contributor to the economic vitality of the country along with the aforementioned cultural aspects of this wonder tree. There are 737,000 Hectares of cork forests in Portugal representing 34% of the world’s cork forest area.

Of course we know of the millions of cork stoppers produced from the spongy bark of Quercus suber but many more products as varied as insulation on space crafts, to fashion items including shoes, hats and even umbrellas, flooring, musical instruments. Personally, apart from the cork flooring in our old kitchen I can remember using cork gaskets on my 1973 Ford Cortina engine re-build.

Cork trees can live on average around 200 years. The first harvesting of the cork bark being at 25 years (called the desbo)i,  after this initial cutting the tree is harvested every nine years (minimum under Portuguese law) and it is not until the trees are 43 years old that they produce cork of a  sufficient quality needed to produce the cork stoppers for quality wines. This non-damaging method of bark removal stimulates the tree to naturally regenerate its magical bark. After harvesting the tree trunk and branches cut take on a brilliant red colour as I saw on my trip. A number indicating the last digit of the year it was cut is then painted onto the trunk. Now all you have to do is wait nine more years for the next sustainable harvest. In the meantime the trees and the ‘Montados’ are home to many varied creatures including the critically endangered Iberian Lynx, Imperial Eagles, high quality, free ranging pork producing pigs fed on the acorns, and a myriad of invertebrates and insects.



 Since 2001 when the laws on protection for cork oaks were ‘upgraded’ after instances of terrible destruction occurred. Now since this new law, if a cork oak is felled without lawful permission then the ground upon which it grew is forbidden to be developed for twenty five years. Dead Cork trees to be felled are painted around the trunk with a white band. Mind you they can take some time before they are felled I was told by my guides.

Img-CorkArt 1








Cork Trees & Art - Humans, Art & trees seem to be inextricably linked the world over. Portugal, and more specifically the 'Montados' are apprecited by artist, food lovers and of course wine lovers. Here near Coruche we had dinner in a splendid local restaurant. Adorning the walls of the restaurant were many art work, ceramics Etc of the Cork Oak Culkture. Over the deli counter were the ubiquitous hanging jamons whose taste is beyond compare with the rubber ham you can buy in too many outlets.Jamon is another 'art form' - of gastronomy and even cutting of the ham by a specialist is a spectacle to be viewed with appreciation.



When harvested the bark takes on a migical red glow as we witnessed on trees here near Coruche. Again providing many culutral opportunities to estow the virtues of cork trees once more through perhaps artist representation of this vivid effect of the harvesting.




                             VIEW many more IMAGES of the WHISTLER OAK and BABY WHISTLER here on Flickr



Cork Oak Facts:

Typically Cork oaks are harvested for the first time after 25 years,  (called desboia) but it is not until they are 40 years plus that the cork is of sufficient quality to produce high quality stoppers, closures or corks as we know them.

A minimum of 9 years between ‘harvests’ of the bark ie cork is currently required by law.

Skilled workmen using axes carefully peel the bark off without damaging the trees trunk which turns a beautiful dark red afterwards.

The Whistler Oak harvest of 1991 is famous for it producing 2,645.55 pounds of bark which yielded over 100,000 corks. More than a typical cork tree would produce in its 200 year lifetime!

Since 2001 if a Cork Oak is felled illegally or by ‘accident’ the surrounding land cannot be developed for 25 years.

It is estimated by the time its bark is removed for the last time The Whistler Cork Oak will have yielded the raw material to produce over 1,000,000 corks.

Location: Aguas de Moura, Palmela, Alentejo, Portugal (approx 1 hour south of Lisbon)
Nominated & organised by; UNAC Union of the Mediterranian Forest.

Uses: Cork stoppers, spacecraft heatshields; clothing including shoe &, hats. Umbrellas, insulation, flooring

Location: N8°35'20.010 W8°41'47.440 W3W ///: raptures.rearranged.peacocks

N 38.5858941, W -8.6915792,472


Author Bio: (Rob McBride is a self-funded UK based tree Hunter that is passionate campaigner for ancient & heritage trees of the UK & Europe). Appearing on the BBC’s Countryfile many times, he helped launch the  2015 UK Tree of the year contest with the BBC’s Matt Baker). During February, the voting month Rob sets out to visit and meet the trees & communities  in the European Tree of the year contest.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED No part, reproduction or editing without PRIOR CONSENT of the author

Rob McBride Tree Hunter 0044-7814526077 01691-622837