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Mercoledì, 25 Maggio 2011 12:31

Sardinia's Cork Trees In evidenza

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  An ecosystem that evolved over the millennia is worth saving, and not only for the production of bottle stoppers.   In Gallura, the northeastern edge of Sardinia, green prevails in both torrid summer and frigid winter. Enormous, century-old evergreen trees dominate the landscape: cork oaks. Since the era
of the ancient Romans, the bark of this tree has been used to seal wine containers. An ecosystem that evolved over the millennia is worth saving, and not only for the production of bottle stoppers. Cork oak stands are also the ideal habitat for many rare species, among them the Sardinian deer and Bonelli’s eagle. Unfortunately, many of the cork oak stands have been destroyed in recent years to leave room for the eucalyptus, a tree that grows quickly and is processed into paper and wood pulp. “In the next 10 years, as much as 75% of cork oak in the western Mediterranean could be lost. This will do grave and irreversible harm, both economically and environmentally,” says Nora Berrahmouni, head of the Cork Oak Landscapes program of the WWF, the World Wildlife Fund. “Economic exploitation of the cork oak,” she continues, “benefits the conservation of biodiversity.” Protecting and promoting cork oak stands has become a major activity for the globe’s best known ecological organization. The cork forests are a unique home for flora and fauna, an age-old producer of a key primary resource, and the driving force behind an economic sector that is crucial to Sardinia and the Mediterranean. In Sardinia alone there are several hundred cork oak forests. All along the line, from the stands themselves down to the final product, the watchword is now quality.

 

Tempio Pausania’s experimental cork oak stand is the first in the world to operate according to methods established and recognized globally. Experts scrutinize every step, right up to the very last phase before the corking itself. Since the 1990s, cork manufacturers have been training specialists in machine repair and raw material control in order to guarantee perfection. Investment in research has been growing and is based on experimental analyses that begin in the forests. Maria Elena Madau, head of research for Martinese, a manufacturer in Calangianus since 1975, tells us, “Our approach is based on a reverse path. To attain excellent quality we had to go back to the start, the woods. We can get a good final product only if we start with good raw material.” She continues, “We invested a great deal in the laboratory as well, we carry out analysis of every kind, sensory and instrumental, to be sure that no contamination is present.” Nino Scampuddu, from the Molinas cork company, the largest in Sardinia, also underlines the enormous steps taken to assure quality. A cork expert and a wine lover, he challenged us with this question: “How many wines that win your Tre Bicchieri awards, the wines synonymous with Italian excellence, have cork stoppers?” The answer is 95%, a number that speaks for itself. Despite constant research, the principal problem with corks has not been totally eliminated, so-called ‘cork taint’. The defect is caused by a fungus that develops during the growing phase of the plant – 2,4,6 trichloroanisole (TCA) – and confers an unmistakeable odor that totally undermines the quality of the wine. According to recent figures, a maximum of 2% of corks present this problem, and cork stoppers are still considered the closure of choice for the world’s great wines. Decanter, a top British wine magazine, seems to agree, and recently dedicated an editorial to corks entitled, “In cork we trust.” In Sardinia, a classic toast translates to: “ Health, wheat, and cork stoppers!” (“Salude, trigu e tappu de ortigu!”) The sound of a cork popping is the sound of celebration. Cork has many other important uses besides as stoppers: think of flooring, bulletin boards, wall coverings, fishing floats, hot pads, fabrics, cigarette tips, shoe soles and musical instruments – there is even cork furniture. Recycling is becoming more and more important, and in the province of Verona, a pilot project for separating out and collecting corks has begun.

 

Some Numbers

Cork oaks live about 150-250 years. Virgin cork (or “male” cork) is the first cork cut, generally from 25-year-old trees. Another 10-12 years is required for the second harvest, and a tree can be harvested a dozen times in its lifetime. Cork harvesting is done entirely without machinery. Cork planks are stacked outdoors at the factory for at least 6 months to season. After boiling, the planks are pressed and worked by machinery. Specialized technicians begin the cutting process. A one-piece cork stopper is the highest quality. In the last phase, the corks are washed and undergo a final quality test.

 

85% of Italian cork is found in Sardinia. Portugal and Spain are the world’s major producers, but France, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria also grow cork. From 2,200,000 hectares of forest come 3 million tons of cork each year. 70% of cork is used for wine stoppers. Winemakers buy 15 billion corks annually, giving work to tens of thousands of people.

 

Informazioni aggiuntive

  • autore:Giuseppe Carrus
  • categoria:Wine news
  • prodotto editoriale:1945
  • lingua:1
  • tipo prodotto editoriale:WEB
Letto 4449 volte Ultima modifica il Sabato, 01 Gennaio 2011 01:00

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