FOLLOW THE CORK FROM TREE TO BOTTLE

From June to August, three rural regions across Spain are transformed into otherworldly landscapes; trees in the heart of the cork forest are sheared of their bark, becoming brick-red sentinels with leafy tops that guard the woods. And this year, for the first time, visitors are able to experience the harvest with them. A new eco-tour allows travelers to watch the cork harvest and later follow donkeys carrying towering loads to one of the traditional pueblos blancos, towns whose buildings are painted stark white and which dot the countryside in Catalonia, Andalusia and Extremadura. The tour, From Bark to Bottle, leads participants on a trip through Spain’s cork trail to discover the lives of the harvesters, the forests biodiversity and the cultural and gastronomic heritage of the area — in essence, the cork’s path from tree to wine. Cork is a renewable resource; every year farmers go to a different part of their land to harvest, only returning to the same trees every nine years.