A decade ago, shares in the world's largest cork producer, Corticeira Amorim, didn't look like a great bet. Its biggest customer, the wine industry, was flirting with cheaper products that threatened cork's dominance: screw tops and plastic stoppers. But the cork industry has since staged a quiet but dramatic comeback, as Sonia Legg reports.
A decade ago Corticeira Amorim was in trouble as the wine industry flirted with cheaper products. Screw tops and plastic stoppers were favoured over traditional corks - some premium wine makers even complained corks tainted flavours. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CORTICEIRA AMORIM MARKETING DIRECTOR, CARLOS DE JESUS, SAYING: "When you go back 12, 14, 15 years, the forecast for cork was anything but optimistic." The world's largest cork producer decided to fight back. It ploughed 700 million euros into new equipment, technology and research. It created a new cheaper stopper made from shredded cork that could be heat-treated to prevent taint. Then it embarked on a global publicity offensive. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CORTICEIRA AMORIM MARKETING DIRECTOR, CARLOS DE JESUS, SAYING: "Very few people thought that cork and Amorim could deliver on all those aspects but we did. And the result of that is five consecutive years of record-breaking results." 63 percent of world cork exports now come from Portugal. And globally 12 billion bottles of wine are sealed with cork every year - that's around 70 percent. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PRESIDENT OF CORK ASSOCIATION APCOR, JOAO FERREIRA, SAYING: "Wine consumption in the world is moving from volume to value, so we are having less consumption but better consumption, and this is good news for cork because cork is seen as adding value to the wine." Amorim's share price is six times higher than it was before the NDTech cork came on the market. And it's been the top performer on the Portuguese stock index for the past three years. Good reason perhaps to celebrate - with a corked bottle of course.