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Have you ever wondered what it takes to make a cork wine stopper? Or are you like us and couldn’t be bothered about the cork but rather about the contents in the bottle?

We’re guessing a country like Portugal wouldn’t totally agree with the latter as half of the world’s cork wine stoppers are produced by them. In fact, they produce 40 million cork stoppers per day.

Cork wine stoppers are actually made from cork trees, but you can’t simply go ahead and chop down a tree. In Portugal, the law says that no one is allowed to touch one of the cork oak trees before it’s 15 years old and, once the bark has been harvested, it takes about nine to 10 years before it can be harvested again.

Because the bark of cork trees can be harvested from the tree, it allows the tree to form a new bark. It’s a really cool sustainable tree that just keeps on giving new bark.

Cork harvesters usually work in teams of two, harvesting one tree at a time. They have to work very carefully as the axe used to remove the bark can harm the cork.

Although machines have been tried and tested over the years, manual harvesting is still the preferred method as each tree and its bark’s thickness is unique.

Once the bark has been harvested from the trees, the planks are pressed between concrete slabs for six months before they’re sent to a processing facility. Here' they'll be soaked for at least an hour to sterilise the planks and make them softer. Then, a cool punching machine is used to punch little wine stoppers from the planks.

The cork planks that are not used for high-quality stoppers are used for multiple other uses, from flooring to clothing, as well as granulated stoppers, used to cork less expensive wine.

Watch the Business Insider video for more on how cork wine stoppers are made and what happens to leftover cork.

Image credit: The Conversation

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