Saturday, 31 May 2008

Put a cork in it.


When you're tugging out your plastic corks and unscrewing the caps of those so satisfying bottles of wine, give a thought to the cork forests of the Alentejo. Portugal's cork oaks are threatened each time you buy a bottle of wine that isn't stoppered by natural cork.

If the local communities can no longer make a living through harvesting cork, other less environmentally sound uses for the cork forests will be found. If cork groves are abandoned or ploughed up for intensive agriculture, vast species rich areas will vanish. Acres of flower dappled grasslands, home to a unique eco system, will simply disappear or be swamped under invasive scrubby vegetation.




Cork has been harvested for at least a thousand years, many of the cork forests of the Alentejo may be hundreds of years old and are one of the few truly sustainable forms of agro forestry; it's an indigenous resource that is used without disturbing the natural biodiversity. Cork trees flourish without irrigation, fertilizers or chemical herbicides, and they regenerate after harvesting.



If cork can't be sold the local communities will have to find other less environmentally sound uses for the land, bringing the added risk of wild fires or the creeping desertification now present in Spain.

So spare a thought for the cork and when you next buy a bottle of wine. Make sure the wine produces have 'put a cork in it'.

The photographs were taken in the Alentejo, Portugal, May 2008



14 comments:

UN PEU LOUFOQUE said...

Well said. I remember having a book as a child called children around the world and seeing the spanish children by the side of a cork tree. I could not believe that cork came from trees!When we have taken tehm to Southern France and Spain our own kids were equally awed at the spectacle of cork being stripped and harvested but I never thought about how plastic corks might result in such a loss of landscape and of course habitats!

ps superb photos!!

LittleBrownDog said...

Goodness - I didn't realise that. I always thought that, as cork was technically hardwood, you shouldn't be consuming it, but now see the error of my ways - I had no idea it regenerated. Hmmm - another excuse to go out and purchase wine, methinks - purely to help sustain the cork forests you understand...

Blossomcottage said...

How strange that you should blog about this, yesterday whilst waiting on the rolling lawns of Goodwood House, for the lovely hubby to check one of the horses over, I spied a tree and what should it be but yes.. a cork tree when hubby appeared from the stable I pointed it out to him and both said how sad it is we have to now put up with screw top and plastic bungs in our wine.
Blossom

Frances said...

Beautiful photos ... I would love to see those landscapes. I also would love to only have wine from cork-topped bottles.

Most of the wine I buy still does seem to be topped by corks. Are there some countries that are systematically turning to the plastic/screw tops? I do like wine!! And do sample the product from various countries, so haven't noticed a pattern of cork v. alternative closing.

Great blog!

Elizabethd said...

Sadly even in France plastic 'corks' are becoming more popular, even on the mid price wines. Mind you, I cant imagine the big houses putting screw tops on the Pouilly Fuisse!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

That was a very interesting post. I don't drink much, hardly anything to be honest, but when I have a glass of wine I've always said that the screw tops are much easier. However, you make me think that perhaps I should be a little more thoughtful and less impatient.

Crystal xx

Malc said...

My Grandad always used to say the only good thing about Cork was the railway line to Dublin.

Seriously. It's depressing that one of Europe's last real escapes from the rat race (north of Scotland being another) faces such a threat. I'll bear it in mind next time I'm wine shopping.

ChrisH said...

Oh dear, now I feel guilty. Hic! Well said.

Inthemud said...

Re my blog:Oh LWB I should have told you I'd be there and you could have popped in for a cup of tea.

i'll be going again towards the end of July.

Re: Corks I didn't realise that either. Lovely photos. I'll keep an eye on the wine I buy and check for proper corks

Sally's Chateau said...

Absolutely right, the decline of the cork is a serious matter. How deeply unsatisfying anyway to have a screw top or plastic stopper. And then of course the natural cork is so much better at popping back in to keep the wine fresh in its bottle when you have only consumed it in moderation.....

Pondside said...

Interesting - we have been sold a bill of goods then, as over here we've been told that we're using plastic in order to preserve the dwindling cork supply. Thanks for clarifying.

Exmoorjane said...

Oh gawd, another layer of my ignorance uncovered! Have never liked a plastic bung but purely on aesthetic grounds - shall now be very self-righteous as I demand my cork! Thanks for pointing this out.....janex

HER ON THE HILL said...

Hear hear. Can't bear those rubber bullet ones at the best of times. So unromantic, so unappealing. Bring on the cork and maintain those ecosystems and jobs in the process.

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