A cork-maker’s history

Under the title “The kings of cork drink champagne” Josep Massot last week presented the latest book written by Rafael Nadal (Girona, 1954), called Quan en dèiem xampany [When we called it champagne]. To most local TV watchers Nadal is better known as a talk-show participating political journalist rather than a novel writer. Last year though he published a book inspired by childhood memories called Quan érem feliços [When we were happy] that made the Catalan bestseller lists and won two literary prizes. There is a personal link here again, as “the king of cork”, Francisco Oller, was his great-grandfather who as a young man, in the late 19th century when the phylloxera hit the Catalan vineyards, emigrated to France. There he learned the trade of cork making and soon started his own business, first in France and later also in Cassà de la Selva, from where he originated. In a very short time he became the supplier of cork for the likes of Roederer, Taittinger, Bollinger, Deutz or Veuve Clicquot. According to Massot, the novel is a story of setbacks and turnarounds with the history of 20th century Europe in the background; e.g. the first setback was the burning down of the factory in Reims during World War I. The patriach considered business more important than anything else, but already the following generation saw the first rebels, his daughters. The book presentation promises histories of betrayal, war, power battles, clandestine love, oblivion, and rancor. And praise of the lasting, such as the corks that preserve the champagne and still come with the initials “FO”.

 

 

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