With many French vineyards now opting for synthetic corks or alternative methods of wine closers (screw tops) I feared that real corks may disappear. There is a cork producing industry both in Provence and Corsica while Spain and Portugal retain leadership as the largest producers on the globe.
The cork oak grows incredibly well in the Mediterranean basis. Entire cork oak forests grow in the Var (just 40 minutes outside of Marseille). The Egyptians were using cork stoppers and the Greeks and Romans carried on the tradition. The cork (which is simply the bark) is harvested every 10 years or so by stripping the tree. It seems like an environmentally friendly enough activity as the bark eventually grows back, yet it is in decline.
Wine specialists argue that the cork can give the wine an off flavour. But it is possible to get rid of TCA (trichloranasole), the contaminating agent. A French company called Oeneo Bouchage has made some giant leaps forward by introducing a new line of corks made from decontaminated cork granules.As leaders in the cork world they are present in France, Spain, Italy, Chile and USA (Napa). http://www.agriworldsa.com/customers/oeneo-bouchage-diam
It’s reassuring to know that an ancient tradition may not be in peril after all. There is one wine enthusiast in the Luberon who began a collection of cork screws now on display at the Musée du Tire-Bouchon (cork screw museum) just outside of Ménerbes. http://www.domaine-citadelle.com He may be able to add some new designs to his collection yet.