The Art of Wine: The Cork

cork image.jpgEspadán Corks provided this beautiful example of the evolution of the cork. Our partnership with Espadán Corks is the perfect reflection of values; they produce high quality and ecologically sound products. This family-owned business takes great care in their production of corks, which are certified by the Forest Steward Council (FSC). The FSC certification ensures the end user that the product upholds the principles and criteria of proper forest management bringing the highest social and environmental benefits.

The strip of cork pictured is a cutting used to make “stoppers” of cork. In this slice you can see annual growth rings in the wood, each ring represents a growth cycle of 1 year. You will notice three different types of structures: the back, formed by dark hardwood; the belly, with more of a creamy color; and the thick middle section, which is where the cork is obtained. In this middle section, there are darker, reddish channels uniting the belly to the back, which allows the cork to breathe. These channels are called lenticels and are responsible for the quality of the plug. The greater number of lenticels signifies a lower quality cork. As the cork grows against the tree more lenticels are required to oxygenate the tissue and the quality of the cork decreases. A tree with slow growth rate contributes to a higher quality cork. In the mountains of Sierra Espadan, it takes almost 40% more time to obtain the cork (approximately 14 years), compared to other faster-growing regions such as Portugal or Extremadura. And in order to begin the process of peeling a cork tree, the tree should be 30 cm diameter from chest height.

You will also notice in the sample shown, as the corks progress towards the center they change to more white in color. This is due to the preferred treatment on the cork. A cork with less treatment will appear more natural in look and feel. When I asked David about why he prefers corks with less treatment he responded, “for the same reason I prefer women with less makeup. It’s more natural”.

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This was our English translation of information provided by Adolfo at Espadán. http://www.espadancorks.com

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