If you’re like many of the growing collection of consumers who are conscious of the source of the products they use, you may be cognizant of where your wine comes from. Few people, however, ask the same question about its cork. Let’s take a moment to explore the source of an often overlooked component of the wine industry.

Which Country is the Leading Producer of Cork in the World?

Not as well-known for their wine as some of their European neighbors, it may surprise you that the answer is none other than the coastal nation of Portugal. Sitting atop the list with 63.1% of the world’s 2016 cork exports, Portugal far outpaces the next closest nation in this category, Spain, which only accounted for 17% of cork exports.(1)

How Much Cork Does Portugal Grow?

Cork oak, the tree from which cork is made, covers approximately 8 percent of Portugal’s land mass. This accounts for approximately 28 percent of its forests, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.(2)

This means that almost one-third of the world’s total cork oak area, estimated at 5.3 million acres, is in Portugal. Portugal’s annual cork harvest amounts to about 310,000 tons.

What Impact Does Cork Have on Portugal’s Economy?

With exports so high, it stands to reason that cork is a critical industry in Portugal. The sale of cork accounts for 500 factories and employs approximately 20,000 workers in the nation of about 10,000,000.

The valuation of Portugal’s 2016 cork exports was approximately US$1 billion, accounting for almost half a percent of its gross domestic product according to the World Bank.(3) For comparison, Spain’s 2016 cork exports were valued around US$278.8 million and no other country’s exports topped US$100 million.

Portugal’s cork is primarily directed to three main markets — the US, the UK, and Germany. These nations account for about 70 percent of Portugal’s cork exports.

So, to answer our initial question, if you’re in one of those three nations and contemplating the origin of a specific wine cork, the smart money will be on Portugal. The country is the leading producer of cork in the world.

References:
(1) http://www.worldstopexports.com/top-cork-exporting-countries/
(2) http://www.fao.org/docrep/x5362e/x5362e03.htm
(3) https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD