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.