History of cork
One of the premier products of Portugal which contributes greatly to its economic growth is the cork which is obtained from the bark of the cork oak tree and is harvested for a period of about 9 years. Portugal accounts for about 50% of the total cork production in the world and the Mediterranean type climate of Portugal is immensely conducive to its growth. Cork is a vegetable tissue and because of its versatility it has had a variety of uses from being used in fishing boats and roads, as floor tiles etc. though it’s most prevalent use has been as cork stoppers in wine bottles. This makes it evident how significantly the cork production supplements wine production in Portugal as well.
If one goes down the pages of history, it will be interesting to find that since scores of years before the birth of Christ, the usage of cork had been prevalent in the various Asian countries and in some of the European countries like Rome and Italy as well. Portugal was covered with abundant cork oak tree plantations because of the favorable climatic conditions and the Portuguese should be credited for being the first in the world to introduce suitable norms related to the conservation and preservation of these cork oak trees. Moreover, during the Age of Discovery in the 14th century the Portuguese explorers used cork wood as ship building material. In those days, cork oak wood was referred to as ‘sovaro’ and considered as perfect to withstand harsh weather conditions and its unique quality was that it never rotted. However, it was the Englishman Robert Hooke who for the first time devised the use of cork for sealing wine bottles and since then cork has been widely used as cork stoppers. In a country like Portugal, where its wine is one of the most famous delicacies, abundant availability of cork has only been an additional boon.