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Bumper Crop and Hot Summer Heat Combine for Ideal 2004 Cork Harvest

Benicia, CA, August 25, 2004 – A hot summer in Europe has once again played an important role in this year's cork harvest, one of the larger cork harvests in recent years, according to Jochen Michalski, president of Cork Supply Group, the nation's largest provider of premium natural cork wine stoppers.

“While not as hot as last year's record-breaking summer, it was still extremely hot and dry, which is ideal for stripping the trees and obtaining large planks which are best for wine cork production,” Michalski commented.

Early estimates on yield for 2004 indicate approximately 350 million pounds of cork harvested for both Portugal and Spain versus about 301 million pounds for 2003. “Forest management improvements all across Portugal are also resulting in more high grade wood suitable for wine corks. Generally, the overall quality of cork wood is increasing from year to year,” said Michalski. “Improvements in forest management practices that were first implemented in the mid-1980s are showing their value with each successive harvest.”

The Cork Supply Group executive pointed out that last year's harvest marked the low point in a nine-year cycle that the cork industry has experienced for many decades. “The cork industry has worked to space out the harvesting of selected trees to even out the cycle over the last two decades, so the differences between the highs and lows are less extreme than they once were.”

Increases in both yield and quality are very good news for those winemakers who prefer to seal their bottles with traditional cork. “With a greater supply of cork and a more stable dollar, the constant price increases of the last four years have come to an end, and we foresee price stability for many years to come,” observed Michalski.

Cork is produced from the bark of the quercus suber tree, also called cork oak, which grows predominantly in Portugal and a few other countries about the Mediterranean. The trees are stripped every nine to ten years, when the bark is thick enough to provide viable commercial use. By cycling the production schedule of trees, cork foresters maintain a consistent and reliable source of wood. Nearly 99 percent of all cork harvested is used for commercial purposes in one manner or another. The highest quality cork is generally reserved for wine stoppers, with lower grades used in a host of products ranging from linoleum and ceiling tiles to auto parts and shoe soles. Protected by the Portuguese government as a renewable resource, the average life span of a cork tree is more than 200 years.

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