Meet a Cork Grower
Fourth-generation cork grower
Chamusca County, Central Portugal
Nuno is the administrator of Rosmaninhal, his family's 2,500-acre ranch located 90 minutes northeast of Lisbon. Supporting a balanced biodiversity of forests, crops and native wildlife, the ranch's low-impact forestry and farming is a fine example of Portugal's sustainable Montado system in action.
Nuno's university degree in Forest Management serves him well as steward of the ranch's forests — which consist of 50% cork, 40% eucalyptus and 10% pine trees. Nuno's older brother, João, is in charge of the maize and vegetable crops that grow amongst the forests. All 8 of their sisters also work the ranch and business office, serving in various capacities that support the family's forestry and farming operations.
The ranch has been in Nuno's family since his great grandfather purchased the land in 1870 — part of a 16,000-acre parcel of sandy slopes surrounding a central valley that supports rice fields and provides exceptional natural draining for the forests. In addition to planting cork oaks, Nuno's great grandfather divided the land into smaller ranches for future generations of the Coimbra family. Rosmaninhal is one of those original ranches and, thanks to the family's caretaking, Nuno says it remains one of the best.
Nuno has bright hopes that his children, who are still too young to work the ranch, will continue his family's legacy of cork growing for future generations. For now, he enjoys the companionship and curiosity of his eldest son and nephew, who accompany him as he tends to his many daily responsibilities.
"This ranch is an important source of income for everyone in my family, and it's much more than that," says Nuno. "It represents my great grandfather's work. I have a very special and important social and family responsibility to care for this land the best I can."
Nuno's takes great pride in growing premium quality cork. He still has bottles of port wine given to him by his great grandfather which he says possess "great aroma and flavor like a modern port wine" even after more than 100 years cellared with natural cork stoppers. "Proof," he says, "that quality cork is incomparable."
Ask Nuno for the secret to producing high quality cork, and he will likely give you a five-part answer. First, make all decisions with the health of the cork trees foremost in mind. Second, protect the trees by avoiding intensive cattle grazing. Third, control erosion with good soil conservation practices. Fourth, promote new trees through natural regeneration, which produces stronger trees than artificial regeneration. Lastly, be highly selective of young trees that possess the bark tissue structure capable of producing top quality cork, to ensure a quality stand of cork trees for future generations.