You wouldn’t know it, but some of the cork trees in Portugal today have stood the test of time and witnessed the greatest historical revolutions of the country. They are incredibly old and are a true representation of Portuguese heritage, just like the Lusitano horses who have grazed under them enjoying their shade for decades. Cork has been in use throughout time, spanning well before the time of Christ. Evidence of cork remnants have been found in Ancient Egypt, the Roman civilisations, medieval monks, the Great Navigations…the list goes on. Although wine and cork go hand-in-hand, a partnership that started in the 3rd century B.C, cork has countless alternative uses these include: shoes, tiles on walls, insulation and fishing utensils.
Mares and Foals Under the cork trees in the Alentejo Portugal
While just about all tree species have a layer of cork bark, the Cork Oak Tree (Quercus Suber) superceeds all other trees in terms of the quality and quantity of cork. Cork Oak trees are most pervasive in the Mediterranean countries and developed the thick layer of cork bark as a protective measure against harsh conditions. In a region that has always been plagued by drought, bush fires and temperature fluctuations the evolution of the cork bark gives it remarkable and unique properties.
There are no human-fabricated materials that are able to emulate the remarkable properties of cork.
No human-fabricated material is able to emulate the remarkable properties of cork. With 50% of its volume being air, cork is remarkably lightweight. It is also the only known solid that when compressed on one side, does not increase in volume on the other side making it highly compressible and elastic. To add to this, it is waterproof and fire-retardant (it burns without a flame!) ,thanks to the suberin and ceroids in the cell walls. Additionally, it is abrasion resistant due to the honeycomb-lattice formed between the cells allowing the minimisation of the material used to reach maximum strength and minimum weight. The list of beneficial properties of cork is truly extensive, however the most noteworthy property can be dialled down to its sustainability and renewability.
No tree is cut down during harvesting!