Cork is harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree, which is native to the Mediterranean region, including Portugal, Spain, and parts of North Africa. The cork oak tree is typically harvested for its bark every 9 to 12 years, after the tree has matured to about 25 years old.
The cork harvesting process involves stripping the outer layer of bark from the tree using a special tool, typically a handheld axe or machete. The cork harvester carefully removes the outer layer of bark in a way that does not damage the underlying layer, which will eventually grow into the next layer of cork.
After the cork has been harvested, it is boiled and then left to dry in the sun for several months. During this time, the cork will be flattened and smoothed, and any imperfections will be removed. Once the cork has been properly cured, it can be sorted and graded according to its quality, before being shipped to manufacturers to be turned into wine corks.
It’s important to note that not all cork harvested from the cork oak tree is suitable for making wine corks. Only the highest quality cork, which has a uniform texture and density, is used for this purpose, while lower quality cork may be used for other products such as insulation or flooring.