‘From Bark to Bottle’: First tourism program around the culture of cork

This Monday, the first American tourist group of the ‘From Bark to Bottle’ program arrived in Catalonia. About ten people saw the extraction of cork from a tree in the north-eastern Catalan region of Baix Empordà.  The objective of the tour is to shine light on the value and culture of cork as well as the positive aspects of Catalonia. Additionally, the objective is to educate: far from the Mediterranean, many Americans believe that trees are cut down to make cork, which is not the case. In fact, the director of the CFCA, Patrick Spencer has specified that they will not increase the number of tours nor make them bigger to not impact the environment too negatively, but additionally to keep the quality of the tours high and also “intimate”. 

A group of tourists attending the program ‘From Bark to Bottle' (by ACN)
A group of tourists attending the program ‘From Bark to Bottle' (by ACN) / ACN


June 13, 2016 06:54 PM

Barcelona (CNA).- The first group of American tourists came to Catalonia this Monday with the ‘From Bark to Bottle’, a pioneering initiative which aims to shine light on the value and culture of cork.  About ten people witnessed the extraction of the cork tree during a visit made to the Mas Plaja Forallac, in the Baix Empordà region in north-eastern Catalonia. The program, promoted by the American Cork Forest Conservation Alliance (CFCA) and Consortium of ‘Les Gavarres’, a mountain massif in Catalonia, also wants to show the richness of the land, and at the same time, raise funds for the conservation of the mountain. One of the main objectives is promoted by the CFCA since 2008 has been to educate Americans on how cork is made: trees are not cut to create the product. In fact, for the environmentally friendly, the director of the CFCA, Patrick Spencer has specified that they will not increase the number of tours nor make them bigger to not impact the environment too negatively, but also to keep the tours “intimate”.

This year, three more trips will be organized for a total of 40 people to stay in Catalonia, Extremadura and Andalusia. ‘From Bark to Bottle’ wants show the ethnological richness of cork and that which the cork industry represents. That is why they have organized four trips from the US to teach participants about the process of obtaining and processing of cork in three regions, Catalonia, Extremadura and Andalusia. The first group arrived on Monday and have begun to visit in Catalonia at Mas Plaja Forallac (Baix Empordà). For four days, they will visit towns such as Palafrugell, Palamos or Cassa de la Selva, which is the last part of this experience, as they have already been in the other two regions.

The Cork Forest Conservation Alliance (CFCA) has been working since 2008 to end the ignorance in the US about the cork industry. In a context so far removed from the Mediterranean culture, there is a belief among consumers and businesses that the extraction is done like how one gets material from the rest of trees, that are cut down for cork specimens. The director of the CFCA, Patrick Spencer, has admitted that this is in fact a problem because many users do not buy products containing cork, for example wine bottles, thinking that this will help save trees. “Cork is a unique product, and because of this we have decided to promote the project to teach them that it is not so (as they think it is)”, stated Spencer.

One of the participants, Robin of New York, explained that she thinks she will never again buy a wine bottle without a cork made of the same material. “I was totally unaware of the hard work that is in the process; for people who care about the environment, it is important to explain the sustainability of the whole process,” she added. She also asserted that that she wants to tell her friends about the importance of using cork, not only environmental terms, but also in terms of culture and economy of the area.

Last year, the New York Times did a story about the program, and, in no time, the Cork Forest Conservation Alliance (CFCA) had already exhausted the spaces of the four trips this year. When asked if they are planning more in a year, Spencer responded: “The more people we bring, the greater the (negative) impact on the environment, and the smaller the experience of every visitor, we want to continue to be an intimate format.”

A project that allows to collect funds for conservation

The chosen tour operator has been the company ‘Two birds one Sone’, which has been commissioned to design the visit, centering itself mainly around observation, experience and direct experience in the region. In the case of Catalonia, the Consortium of Gavarres has been chosen as a place to visit. “We want to be immersed in the cork territory to see how cork is peeled, how it’s transformed, and how it’s wine bottles are bottled, as well as the gastronomy and companies of the sector”, stated Armet. 

For his part, President of the Consortium of the Gavarres, Fermin Santamaria, said that this ecotourism product will allow to internationalize the Gavarres brand, but will also create a public and private network to move initiatives for nature conservation forward. In this regard, he said that all those involved have “responsibility” to “revitalize” the cork industry and the forest because there are large benefits to the region, such as the creation of jobs, sustainable tourism and a lower risk forest fires.

The visit was also attended by the Secretary of Environment and Sustainability of the Government, Marta Subirà, who praised the initiative as a good example of networking in the region and spoke of its outstanding potential.

The Consortium of the Gavarres has been actively working with tourism and the cork industry for four years. One of the promotional activities it has been designing is a mobile application that allows you to discover the natural and cultural environment of the massif, with 51 trails and 430 km of routes.