This is the Whistler Tree, the largest and oldest cork oak tree still commercially producing wine bottle corks. Now, before you write this blog off because trees are dumb and boring, consider this: In the harvest before last, this one tree yielded enough cork to make over 100,000 wine corks! Yes, this tree is the real deal.
The Whistler Tree lives in Portugal, a leader in cork production that is currently responsible for 50% of worldwide cork production. It is named after the small metropolis of birds residing in it. The tree was planted in 1789 and is still churning out cork today.
You’ll notice in the picture that the trunk of the tree is a different color than the upper section of the tree. This is because this picture was taken soon after a harvest, and harvesters can only legally harvest so high up the tree.
Cork is a completely sustainable product, and a tree will grow new cork bark to harvest every ten years. The bark is removed in large sheets, and is about 2 inches thick.
Wine bottle corks are now facing strong competition from synthetic corks and screw caps, and only time will tell which form of stopper emerges victorious.