Krone & Amorim teamed up last year to offer a prize for two people to experience the beauty of Portugal in a paid six-day trip as well a visit to the magnificent cork forests in the country’s south with an introduction to the behind-the-scenes aspects of cork production.
Portugal is also home to the world’s largest cork tree forests and the Helix cork—the world’s first twist-open-and-close cork closure for wine. In the spirit of innovation, Krone is the first producer in the Southern Hemisphere to use the Helix as a closure for our Krone Chardonnay Pinot Noir.
Competition winners Alfie Branchina and Fatima de Abreu returned from the trip full of smiles and brimming with stories. We catch up with them, Fatima does the talking.
Tell us about your trip to Lisbon, what were some highlights?
For us, Lisbon was just the most beautiful and amazing city. Alfie is a huge Benfica fan, so we got on the metro to go to the Estádio da Luz where Alfie bought a team jacket. Once he had scratched that item from his bucket list, we made our way to the tourist sites. Our first stop was Belém. In this district of Portugal we saw some of the monuments commemorating the Portuguese explorers. Other famous sites included the striking pink Belém Palace, which is the official residence of the President of Portugal, and The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.
Finally I got to scratch an item from my bucket list: The Pastéis de Belem bakery. This is the home of the traditional delicious custard tart, and no trip to Belém is complete without savouring one in this loud and chaotic cafe.
After feasting on the delicious custard tarts, we made our way to the beautiful district of Alfama. We walked the narrow streets of this district looking for the best location to enjoy some traditional Portuguese fast food and a live Fado performance. We were not disappointed. After listening to an emotional Fado performance we made our way back to our hotel.
What were you surprised to find out about cork on your trip to the cork region of Coruche?
The process from tree to cork is fascinating. The Cork Oak tree has to be about 25 years old before the bark can be removed. Once the bark has been removed, the tree is left for 9 years to recover before the bark is harvested again. These trees are abundant in Portugal because the conditions are ideal. The bark has to be stripped by skilled workers using a special axe and care is taken not to injure the tree.
What stood out?
The trees have numbers painted on them indicating in which year the bark was last harvested.
What impression did the cork harvesting experience leave you with?
This experience spoke to us a lot about patience, appreciation of natural resources and unique skills. The trees have to be very mature before harvesting virgin cork and nine years have to pass between harvests. The skill of harvesting can only be passed on from generation to generation and this job cannot be replaced by machinery. Unfortunately, the younger generation do not want to be cork harvesters and landowners want to maximise the land by keeping livestock, which often damage the trees.
Your best food experience in Portugal – and what dish do you think would go best with Krone Chardonnay Pinot Noir that you tried?
We were in Porto in sardine peak season. We both agreed that eating grilled sardines in Portugal was a must. We sat down at a street cafe along the Douro River and enjoyed a plate of grilled sardines for lunch. It was delicious. Of all the delicious Portuguese food we enjoyed on our trip, this was the most memorable and definitely the meal we would have paired with Krone Chardonnay Pinot Noir.
Alfie and Fatima are a fun-loving couple from the Vaal Triangle. Alfie is an engineer sales executive, while Fatima is a university lecturer.