Looking for a typical Portuguese souvenir to bring back home? Cork handcraft is the one!
When speaking about Cork, what comes to your mind first? Wine stoppers, right? But during a visit to Portugal, you will notice that markets and handicraft shops have a wide range of products made of cork. Portugal produces more than half of the cork consumed throughout the whole world, discover the Portuguese know-how, and find yourself a nice souvenir from Portugal.
The traditional way of making cork stoppers for wine bottles
Cork is made from the bark of cork oak trees, stunning trees that grow mostly in Mediterranean regions, such as Spain, Morocco, and Portugal. Cork harvesting requires patience and care: Patience because it takes 25 years for a cork oak tree to produce cork, then it provides new cork bark every 9 years during an average time of 200 years. Care because since cork oaks are considered National Heritage they must not be damaged by the harvest.
Recently harvested cork oak bark drying in the sunshine
Cork has many properties: it is light, waterproof, versatile, and it is an excellent thermal and acoustics insulator. During the Age of Discoveries, the builders of Portuguese ships and caravels used cork oak wood for the parts that were most exposed to inclement weather, since besides being exceptionally strong, it never rotted. The cork oak is characteristic of the Alentejo Region there, you may enjoy the stunning landscapes overflowing with noble cork oak Trees.
Portugal is proud to have the largest area of cork oak forests in the world (33% in total) and we aim to keep preserving them. For centuries, it has been illegal to cut down or damage the trees to harvest the cork. The noble tree not only produces oxygen but also retains carbon dioxide, and even more if they are harvested regularly. Moreover, the transformation of cork requires no additional products.
But what can be made from cork? It might be better to ask what cannot be made with cork! Cork is a particularly good construction material. The Portuguese markets and handicraft shops are also filled with products made of cork: handbags, wallets, belts, jewelry, postcards, and even clothes and shoes. Artists make fantastic pieces of art with cork as well!
Bags, shoes, hats, jewelry and much more made of cork
During your next tour in Portugal be curious and have a look at the wonderful know-how of Portuguese cork handcrafters, or just enjoy the divine sound of a natural cork stopper popping out a good Portuguese wine bottle…
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