Thursday, May 31, 2018

MENU's Iberian Exploit 5. Visiting the business of Amorim Cork - not just for closing bottles

We left Porto early in the morning and drove down to another of the Amorim factories. This time it was to see the whole process of producing corks from the raw product and so see their museum, their flooring section and the champagne cork area
The factory is very large, quite noisy and we walked many kilometres to see it all, it is very interesting how many uses cork can be put to, some in unusual industries like the space programme
This is the receiving area for the cork where they do the initial sorting of the pieces. They are then steam washed
You can see the difference from these side sections, the ones with the fewest striation marks are the top quality
This man is an expert with years of training and experience. He has to position the cork carefully so that he gets the best cork possible, then he pushes a foot lever and a cutter punches out the cork, He does thousands in a day.
A plaque on the wall of the original Amorim family home, explaining that it was the birthplace of the founder of the company
This is the house which was the Amorim family home. It is now used for business meetings and functions
The lovely wooden “house” on stone mushroom stilts is how grain was stored; they have been in use for centuries if not millennia. Interestingly you will see this sort of thing in many Celtic countries, the UK where they are called staddle stones, and also as far north as Scandinavia. Rodents and other pests are unable to gain entry
Then it was time for the showroom of all the products that Amorim make out of cork. And some were surprising
Many are used as art installations in the showroom but you can see plant insulation, sound baffles, ceiling tiles
and strips of cork oak bark from which wine corks have been punched
These are compounds used in the flooring side
And compressed cork can be used to make bowls and other household equipment ...
... like these modern and well designed items
We watched machines slicing these huge compressed cork cylinders into such thin layers
It has many different uses and is all of it is used in some way, wastage from one area is then broken up and used in another, whether tiles, flooring, insulation, book covers, fashion items like handbags wallets and purses, to name just a few
This attractive wafer thin product is about to be used on wall coverings and tiles
Compressed blocks have many uses
They can be ’turned’ into bowls on a lathe
Or the thin slices are used by designers like Jasper Morrison to make shoes and other items of apparel. Now who wouldn’t want a pair of those?
Dart boards, table mats, seats: the sky and your imagination are the only limiting factors
And they have a very robust flooring company, with many different attractive finishes, not all of which look like cork. Cork is warmer, softer and longer lasting than many laminates. And it insulates against noise
Then we went to see the Champagne cork factory. They make the corks for many of the top Champagne marques. They have three layers and are compressed in the bottles where they take their more familiar shape and are topped with their muselets, the wire cages and metal caps which top the cork to identify the marque
This magic machine can sort them too, it is done with fast working lasers
Names you might recognise
Some for Chilean sparkling wine
And some for Burgundy
More Champagne names and even some for Portuguese Quintas

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