Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Flying Cork

The Portuguese cork industry is branching out in a bid to find new markets for its declining cork stopper business, where the screwcap has made painful inroads. Of course there will probably always be a place for a good unblemished long cork in a bottle of vintage Port or Claret, which is designed to mature in the bottle. But most wine is consumed in the month after purchase and in this market the cork share is only about 70% (down from over 90%). The industry needs to consider the long term - the cork bark is first harvested when the tree is about 20 years old and then again about every 10 years for the next two centuries. The future plan is to make aircraft wings out of carbon fibre and cork instead of PVC, whilst resistance to fire (and oil prices) will be used to advantage inside the aircraft too. But they may have some unexpected competition in that land of the screwcap: Australia is considering planting the Quercus Subur to exploit its resistance to bushfires. At least the Portuguese know they have to give a minimum of 20 years notice...

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