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What is Cork?

L. S. Wynn
By L. S. Wynn
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Cork is a material that grows as the bark of the Cork Oak tree. More than half of the world's supply originates in southern Portugal.

The bark of the tree is harvested about every 9 or 10 years, and it is allowed to dry for 1 to 2 years. Next it is boiled to remove any toxins or other harmful agents, and then it is graded and cut. After a final cleaning and drying, the cork is sorted and ready for use.

Cork is most commonly used for wine bottle stoppers, but it can also be found in bulletin boards, flotation devices, and floor tiles. Worldwide, demand is on the rise primarily due to increasing wine consumption. Ramping up production, however, is a lengthy process since the trees can only be harvested about once per decade. Synthetic cork has been developed to satiate the growing demand.

What is a Corkage Fee? A Corkage fee is a fee levied by a restaurant to serve a bottle of wine brought in by the customer. The fee is intended to compensate the restaurant for all of the following: opening the bottle, serving the wine, cleaning glasses, and perhaps most importantly, lost revenue from wine sales. These fees vary from restaurant to restaurant and although they can be very high, they usually hover around $10 to $15 US Dollars.

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Discussion Comments
By concordski — On May 09, 2010

@origami

I cannot believe that the majority of the world's cork comes from the Iberian Peninsula. No wonder there is an interest in developing and using synthetic cork. Can you imagine what would happen if the cork cartel (if there is one), decided to increase prices drastically?

Synthetic cork keeps the natural producers honest in their pricing.

By origami — On May 09, 2010

Portugal produces about 1/2 of the world's output of cork. Spain is another large producer.

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