From the cultivation of cork oak to the production of wine corks
The history of cork production in Portugal is intrinsically linked to São Brás de Alportel, an Algarvian municipality where the best wine corks in the world are made. Proximity to the Serra do Caldeirão to the north and the Barrocal Hills in the south, make this area a climatic paradise for the cork oak groves.
Initially used in the production of buckets and basins, the bark of the cork oak quickly acquired new uses thanks to industrialisation. Today, it is used to produce many items including bottle corks, handles for fishing rods, feathers for shuttlecocks, purses and shoes, cladding for construction, and thermal and acoustic insulation.
The treatment of cork is a slow process and requires special techniques. After it has been extracted from the cork oak tree, it is left to dry for six months, then cooked and left to rest for some weeks. Afterwards, it is separated and pressed and soon it is ready to be transformed into a new product.
Nowadays, this thousand-year old industry is the object of tourist interest. The so-called Cork Route – the tour through the Serra do Caldeirão showing the process from the oak groves, to the extraction of the cork to the industrial transformation for end use – has also come to contribute to the protection and marketing of this product, of which Portugal is the number one producer in the world.