Makers of wine corks say they've cured 'taint'

Antonio Amorim is putting a new cork in wine bottles to keep his company's profits from spoiling. After losing sales to synthetic stoppers and metal screw tops, Amorim said he had found a way to stem a decline in market share through a process that gets rid of "cork taint".
The contaminant can render the finest vintage undrinkable and costs the wine industry hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Corticeira Amorim, the world's biggest maker of wine corks, saw sales decline each year from 2000 through 2004 as consumers turned up their noses at pinot noirs with the bouquet of a damp dog. Amorim responded by modernizing plants to cut production costs as he searched for a cure.

Amorim's process, which steams out compounds caused by a naturally occurring fungus, has helped lower the industrywide incidence of cork taint to less than 1 percent of wine bottles produced, from as much as 5 percent, said Sónia Baldeira, an analyst at Caixa Banco de Investimento in Lisbon.

The shares, which shot up 79 percent in the past two years, were set to rise even more as he won back customers by virtually eliminating cork taint, Baldeira said.

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