12 September 2006

2006 Cork harvest biggest in latest nine-year cycle

While Europe had another hot summer in 2006, it also had the biggest cork harvest in the last nine years, bringing in a total of 140,000 tons of raw cork, according to Jochen Michalski, president of Cork Supply Group, the nation’s largest provider of premium natural cork wine stoppers.

“The 2006 harvest is well over 50 percent larger than last year,” says Michalski. “This huge increase is welcomed since last year’s harvest was so low.”

This year Portugal, the largest producer of raw cork, will see 110,000 tons, while the number two producer, Spain, will see 30,000 tons.

“At the beginning of the harvest, we saw some price jumps, probably because of last year’s shortages,” said Michalski. “Fortunately, thanks in large part to our five foresters who work directly with growers in the cork forests, we knew prices would be falling later in the season and we’ve been able to take advantage of that fact by getting better quality cork at lower prices.”

Michalski points out that the Cork Supply Group’s five foresters illustrate the Group’s commitment to cork as well as provide an important advantage. “They spend most of their time throughout the year in the cork forests and are intimately familiar with the terroir of each region we buy cork from,” says Michalski. “Our forest engineers also work with forest owners to develop forest management practices to improve overall wood quality.”

Cork is produced from the bark of the quercus suber tree, also called cork oak, which grows predominantly in Portugal and a few other countries about the Mediterranean. The trees are stripped every nine to ten years, when the bark is thick enough to provide viable commercial use. By cycling the production schedule of trees, cork foresters maintain a consistent and reliable source of wood.

Nearly 99 percent of all cork harvested is used for commercial purposes in one manner or another. The highest quality cork is generally reserved for wine stoppers, with lower grades used in a host of products ranging from linoleum and ceiling tiles to auto parts and shoe soles. Protected by the Portuguese government as a renewable resource, the average life span of a cork tree is more than 200 years.

Since 1981, CSU has provided wineries with the highest level of quality corks available and is a member of the Cork Supply Group, with operations in Europe, North and South America, Australia and South Africa. Besides owning state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Portugal, the Group also has five forest managers in Portugal who work directly with cork forest growers to ensure that quality is maintained literally from the forest to the bottle.

Global Quality Control, a unique independent quality assurance laboratory that maintains autonomous power to accept or reject all cork purchases made by the company based on strict quality standards, also supports the Cork Supply Group.

(Cf. news of July 25, 2006.)

Source: South African Wine News Aug. 25, 2006.

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