Sunday Morning: Portugal Cork Trees, Cork Vs Plastic + Pelcor Review

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Sunday Morning: Put a Cork In It

Many winemakers are sticking by the tradition of sealing wine bottles using cork. They are not content to sit back and let plastic or screw-top caps take over this time-honored tradition, as Martha Teichner learned during a visit to Portugal for CBS Sunday Morning.

CBS Sunday Morning: Cork Trees in Portugal

The beautiful mountains of the Algarve region in Portugal are home to what she called a “magic forest” of giant cork trees. This is a form of oak with unique properties. Trees here can be hundreds of years old. A fourth-generation winemaker’s family has owned one such hill for hundreds of years.  He said that they may wait 40 years for a tree to mature before beginning to use it for cork.

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Sunday Morning: Portugal Cork Trees, Cork Vs Plastic + Pelcor Review

From the forests of Portugal to wine bottles everywhere, Cork endures, as CBS Sunday Morning found out from some innovative entrepreneurs with history. (Carrie’s Camera / Shutterstock.com)

As a local saying goes, “You plant cork trees for your grandchildren.” How is Cork harvested? Vertical and then horizontal cuts with a specialized hatchet splits the bark between May and August, when it is loose. The great news is that the process does not kill these trees, which can only be harvested every nine years, giving it time to regenerate.

Sunday Morning: Amorim Cork Production

Trees can be farmed like orchards, and tourists can follow a Cork Route tour in Portugal, which produces 65% of the world’s supply of cork. The country exports 12 billion corks annually. But what about plastic and screw-top caps for wine bottles? Prior to the year 2000, nine out of 10 bottles were sealed using cork. Now, in 2014, that figure is about seven in 10.

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Antonio Rios De Amorim works at the country’s largest cork company, Amorim, founded by his great-grandfather in 1870. Antonio said that there were reports of Cork Taint, a relatively rare problem. However, the industry sprang into action, and Amorim itself spent over $300 million to all but eliminate this concern through technological advances.

CBS Sunday Morning: Cork Vs Plastic Wine Tops

These days, the company and others make cork in an array of price ranges, with some even cheaper than plastic or screw tops. Expensive wine corks may cost $2 each. And Amorim knows he has perception on his side.

“When they are drinking a bottle of wine with a plastic, they’re not sure of what type of wine” is inside, he explained. Cork implies quality, and top-of-the-line corks are still punched by hand, with human spotters inspecting the production line for defects (women are better at this task than men, reportedly).

Sunday Morning: Pelcor Review of Designer Cork Products

Technology and design are helping the Cork industry take advantage of its wake-up call. Cork is trendy and can be found in a variety of products, even including umbrellas. Pelcor is a company that makes a variety of accessories, including handbags, wallets, and belts, from cork.

Disappointing champagne sales left the family behind Pelcor with an excess supply, and they were inspired to find new uses for it. Some of the products are so fashion forward that you would never guess what they are made of. Sandra Correia should be proud of her unique line of cork products.

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