One of many interesting things about the week my family and friends spent in Sardinia, was the sneak peek at cork production. Cork has been harvested and used to top off wine bottles for over 400 years. What other products have remained the same for 400 years?
Along with drinking the wonderful Sardinian wines (many of them, less expensive than soda,) it was fascinating to see the contorted cork oak trees with the lower part of the trees stripped of their bark. We passed many trucks loaded down with the harvested cork, that were being taken to be processed into stoppers, flooring, and other products.
“Salude, trigu e tappu de ortigul!” This is a Sardinian toast, meaning: “Health, wheat and cork stoppers!” A clear indication of the importance the island places on their bottle stoppers. In fact, Sardinia produces 85% of Italian cork.
France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria also produce cork. Collectively, they annually produce 15 billion corks and employ tens of thousands of employees.
Lately, of course, winemakers have moved towards using synthetic stoppers and twist tops. These have eliminated the cork taint that is possible with real cork (about a 2% risk) and have some other advantages, like the ease of resealing bottles. However, what will our toast be: “Health, wheat and resealable caps?” It loses something in translation!