The Italian Almanac

cork oak

italian News - July 12

Sardinian forests have received the world's first-ever certification for eco-friendly production of cork, which is made from the bark of local trees. Cork oak forest owners and processors near the northern town of Tempio Pausania were awarded the first two certifications under a new international scheme, which seeks to raise social and environmental standards in cork operations.

The initiative, set up by the international non-profit Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the World Wide Fund for Nature, has targeted cork oak forests as they are considered particularly appropriate for sustainable development programmes.

No trees are cut to harvest the cork, as the bark is merely stripped every 10-12 years, while the entire production process - from raw material through to finished item - can be carried out locally. Under Italian law, the first or "virgin" cork can only be harvested when the tree has reached 18 years of age.

The cork forms a layer of protection around the tree, insulating it from extreme temperature as well as keeping it safe from forest fires. After being stripped from the tree, the cork is taken to nearby factories, where it is left to age for several months. It is then boiled at high temperatures and flattened, after which it can be processed.

Sardinian cork is highly prized by vintners, as its tightly compressed nature makes it less likely to crumble . Cork is native to the Mediterranean. Attempts to grow it elsewhere, in South Africa and California for example, have produced poor results.