You may have read my previous post in May about oak galls and the gall oak forests around us here in Andalusia. I finished off with a ‘Watch this space’ as I wanted to find out more about the tannins used to produce the naturally-tanned hides used by Fernando for many of his bags and more specifically, whether the tannins produced from the gall oak are still in use.
It proved very difficult to find out! Fernando buys his raw materials from various wholesalers in Ubrique who in turn buy from various companies throughout Spain (and furthur afield). A lot of the naturally-tanned hides come from Villarramiel, a town in the north of Spain with a long history in the leather industry. Whilst they used to extract and use tannins from pine and holm oak bark, they now use largely ‘quebracho’. This is a hard (very hard!) wood from South America and like the gall oak produces very good-quality tannins. I have contacted them and another supplier to see if I can get some more information!
As the ‘quebracho’ extraction from S.American hard-woods didn´t sound very ecological to me I looked up tannins on Saint Google and found some interesting news from the ‘LIFE’* organisation about the use of grape-seed waste from wine production for tannins. Precicisely here in Spain the LIFE research team have found the tannins not only ecological ly sound but also of a very high quality.
The amount of tannin that could be produced in a year from recycling grape-seed waste could save a yearly felling total of 551,250 quebracho, mimosa and chestnut trees!!!
Maybe LIFE should look into cork oak tannin production… because if wine producers continue to convert to plastic corks or screw tops, the cork oak industry may go downhill and the forests become neglected.
*The LIFE programme is the EU’s funding instrument supporting environmental and conservation projects.