Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Tejo and the Cork Forests

After a heavy night quaffing wine, downing some gin, and a 4am dirty burger scoff I awoke after 3 hours sleep to shuffle towards a coach to take us to the cork forests north of Lisbon. Hosted by the Quinta do Lagoalva, a two hour journey took us here. I was expecting clusters and clusters of trees, but instead there weren't many. The cork trees were a stunning colour; recently stripped, they were the same colour as the cows that were milling around in an adjacent field. Amorim, a leading cork producer, sponsored our trip and I have to admit, the hungover fuzz meant I didn't listen to our guide, Carlos, as much as I should have. Nevertheless, the cork trees were fascinating. Some were over 100 years old but can live up to double. The cork is only harvested after 25 years and is used for a variety of things; shoes, life jackets, that sort of thing.


A quick demonstration on how the cork is stripped showed that great skill and care is needed. One wrong move, a cut too deep means that the tree becomes scarred and won't heal properly.


After this, we moved off to Quinta do Lagoalva taste some wines. Some refreshing roses, dry whites and full bodied reds were tasted, and it was perhaps the first time I've spat (elegantly I'm sure...) - it was a bit early in the day for my fragile state. The winemakers showed us the wines they had on offer and they were an interesting bunch, later sitting down with us for lunch to sample more of their delicious wines. In addition to this we had a jaunty tour round the vineyards in a horse and cart.

Lunch was a simple but tasty affair consisting of a well-dressed salad, pork in walnut sauce, rice bejewelled with sultanas and, much to our delight, an industrial tub of praline ice cream. We finished off with a 46 year old dessert wine, thanked the Tejo winemakers (pictured above) and hopped back aboard the bus. I assumed we were homeward bound, but in fact we were making a quick stop at a cork factory.

It was truly an awesome sight. Piles and piles of cork stacked in neat piles covered an area as far as the eye could see. It would have made a brilliant adventure maze; having ventured down an aisle of cork it was eerily quiet, almost soundproof. We wondered what it would be like to live in a house made of cork. Carlos did a quick question and answer session which became not-so-quick. He did his best to explain to us how the cork industry have been trying to combat cork taint, in finding the best possible way to treat the cork. I got a bit distracted and wandered off, poking and prodding bits of bark here and there.

We arrived back in Lisbon, a full 9 hours later but a day well worth dragging my corpse out of bed for. I was a shell of the person I once was, but gamely soldiered on. Dinner, drinks and a bit of dancing later, I declared myself spent and was in bed by 2am. Rock n' roll.

10 comments:

shayma said...

Lizzie, I love the photo of the cork stacked up. I've never seen cork before. Dinner, drinks, the outdoors, what more can one ask for on a trip. x

Helen said...

Rock and roll dude, rock and roll. It looks like it was an interesting day though. I had no idea cork was used in life jackets. I too love that picture of the cork stacked up.

Browners said...

What an absolute corker of a post. Sounds like you guys had an amazing time. How's your liver?

eatmynels said...

where can i get a cork tree from, do you know if they grow in the UK?

dasilvajums said...

Hello

my mum has a plot of cork land in the Alentejo, one of my favourite sights really, the red bare trunks against a quite barren landscape (in summer it is)...and a good reason to champion corks in wine rather than plastic! Keep the guys in business!!
Great post Lizzie.

Kavey said...

Sounds like a nice excursion! Love the colour of the tree trunks!

An American in London said...

I have no idea how you survived that day, especially when they brought out more wine! lol. Good on you for pushing through until 2 am.

Kitchen Butterfly said...

So love the cork photo....Always nice to connect with like-minded people

Anonymous said...

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