Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Google University: How is a wine cork made?
While sitting at our local little wine bar tonight, the hubs and I got to wondering....where does the cork come from? How is it made? Can it be recycled?
As he pondered these questions, I did what I normally do. I googled it. And this is what I found...
While most trees have an outer bark made of cork, it is the Cork Oak, or Quercus suber, is the main source of cork products. The tree grows mainly in coastal Mediterranean areas where there's plenty of sunshine, high humidity, and low rainfall. The counties producing the most cork include Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Tunisia, France, Italy, and Morocco.
Cork is made of cells that are water resistant and protect the delicate inner bark of the tree. It is rot resistant, fire resistant, termite resistant, soft, bouyant, and impermeable to gas and liquids. This makes it the perfect material to plug up your bottle of wine.
To process the cork into your wine stopper it first must be stripped from the tree. A cork oak has to be at least 25 years old for its cork to be harvested. It is then stripped every 8-14 years for the life of the tree. The cork slabs are then boiled, then punched out into bottle stoppers. The scrap cork is then ground up, mashed together, and made into cork boards, flooring, etc.
Cork can be recycled, though it seems that programs are pretty limited. I found a few sites such as recork.org where you can send your corks to to be recycled into cork tiles, sheets, etc. I don't think that most city recycling programs can take corks but maybe it will become more popular as time goes on. It seems that the whole process of making a cork, though, is fairly sustainable since the trees are only stripped, not chopped down. They can continue to grow and produce cork for many, many years.
So that concludes tonight's lesson. I love how Google can pretty much answer any question you can come up with! Did you learn anything new? Got any other burning questions that need answering?