We’re proud of using natural products throughout our range of ingredients and also our packaging wherever possible, which is why we use a natural cork stopper for our Balsamic Vinegar. It’s important to us to support the communities and ecologies that rely on the cork industry, and also because we think it’s nicer! But cork comes with its own challenges, around 1 in 10,000 corks can become dry and brittle and break in the bottle, so we are faced with a little bit of a dilemma.
Natural cork is sourced from the bark of the Cork Oak Tree, mostly from Spain and Portugal where it is indigenous. The bark is harvested between June and August, by hand, cut off the tree in great satisfying pieces by highly skilled workers. Cork bark strippers, although the harvest only lasts a few months a year, spend years honing their skills until they are deemed expert enough.
A Cork Oak can live for up to 200 years but each tree can only be harvested every 9 years so that the tree is able to regrow their bark. Once harvested the bark is sorted, the thickest and smoothest is cut directly into wine corks for the finest wine. The rest provides granules to be formed into corks for more everyday wines, flooring and coasters etc.
Cork is a sustainable, ecologically sound industry that not only supports the economy of the countries where it is produced but also the environment. According to a WWF report the remaining Portuguese cork forests are instrumental in preventing this region from turning into a dust bowl “Cork oak forests play a key role in maintaining watersheds, preventing erosion and keeping soils healthy”. Each tree also sustains over 100 species, such as the endangered Iberian lynx and Iberian imperial eagle.
So while there may be a business case to move on to synthetic corks, we want to continue using cork because we love working with natural products, but we’d like to know all your feedback on this. If the cork has broken in your bottle please let us know and we will happily replace the cork or the bottle and if you’d rather have a synthetic cork, we’d value that feedback.