How Does Cork Work?

by | Feb 12, 2008 08:00 PM ET
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Marshall Brain

Hi, I'm Marshall Brain. Have you ever uncorked a bottle of wine and thought about the cork? We're assuming here that the vintage is fine enough to actually have a cork as opposed to a piece of plastic or a screw-on cap, but if it does have a cork, the tree that creates it is fascinating. All trees have a cork layer. It's protection that lives between the rough outer bark and the living inner bark of the tree, but in most trees this layer is very thin. Only in the cork oak is the cork layer thick enough to be useful. It's about an inch thick.

You find cork oaks along the northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Cork is perfect for wine bottles because it's spongy, water resistant, impermeable to gases, plus it won't rot. The cells in the cork are protected by a natural waxy substance. That's why corks feel waxy. It's actually a part of the bark. If you'd like to learn more about this and thousands of other topics, come to howstuffworks.com.

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