Where Do Corks Come From?

During a visit to the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma California, I stopped at the beautiful Ferrari-Carano winery. After tasting their wonderful wines, my server stated that walking their gardens was not to be missed. And while in the gardens, he said to be sure to stop by and check out the Cork Oak.

I had always known that cork comes from a tree, but not much beyond that.  So, while strolling through the garden, I came upon the Cork Oak (Quercus Suber) shown in the photo.  In reading about the Cork Oak I was surprised by several facts.

First, and most surprising, was that cork comes from the bark of the Cork Oak.  I had always assumed that the cork somehow came from some soft inner wood of the trunk. But no. It's from the bark.  And then to learn that the bark can only be harvested every nine years, so as to not harm the tree.  The Cork Oak actually has two layers of bark. The outer soft, woody, bark and another inner bark that must not be harmed while harvesting the cork.

Another interesting fact is that cork trees can take 25 years before they are ready for their first harvest.  And typically this first harvest is not suitable for wine stoppers. The first harvest of cork is usually ground up and molded into large block for use as other cork products such as cork tiles and message boards. It isn't until the tree is approximately 50 years old, and on its third harvest, that it produces cork suitable for wine stoppers.

Finally, a Cork Oak can yield 13 to 18 harvests during its life of around 300 years old!

The Cork Oak is grown around the Mediterranean in Portugal, Spain, Morocco, France, Algeria, and Italy.  Attempts to commercially grow Cork Oak in other parts of the world have not been successful.

Whenever wine corks are discussed, the topic of synthetic corks and twist-offs comes up. And I'll hold off on that topic for a future blog.  But next time I want to address that beautiful foil capsule that covers the cork and the upper portion of the bottle. Until then, cheers!

Behind the Cork™ Wine of the Week - Kenwood Jack London Zinfandel ($16)

Looking for an attainable, affordable wine?  You've come to the right place. Each week I feature just such a wine that may be great for taking to a party, enjoying with a dinner or just sipping on Wine Wednesday. 

This week's wine is Kenwood's Jack London Zinfandel. This is a great one that I enjoyed with a short rib dinner. From Sonoma Mountain, this wine is described by the winery as having "fruity aromas of raspberry and fig combined with subtle notes of vanilla and white pepper. With its delicate and well-structured tannins, it provides an elegant mouth feel and a long finish." Another great one to try!