Who Was “the King of Cork?”

In an age when people seem to change jobs at the drop of a hat, and when the idea of a career with a single company can’t even be fathomed, Americo Ferreira de Amorim was an anomaly. From the age of 18, he spent all but a few years of his life involved in the production of cork closures for wine bottles.

Anomalies happen when you have exceptional people possessing exceptional ideas, and that is why we take time today to honor the memory of the man whose name was synonymous with corks.

Amorim passed away last month at age 82. To demonstrate just how influential his company was, at the time of his death, Amorim was Portugal’s richest man. Forbes pegged his net worth at $4.8 billion.

It takes a lot of corks to pile up that kind of wealth, but Amorim and his company came by their success honestly. I was told by one wine distributor who had met him during the 1990s that Amorim wasn’t just focused on quality when it came to cork production; he was obsessed with it.

Amorim once observed, “We are what we do consistently. Thus, excellence isn’t an act; it’s a habit.”

That meant never resting on the company’s laurels. As an example, as the wine industry turned toward sustainable farming, Amorim’s cork company embraced sustainable practices in its cork oak forests, known in Portugal as “montados.” Corticeira Amorim also became a pioneer in the promotion of cork recycling.

Many wineries have embraced screw caps as their closures of choice, but corks always will be an important part of wine lore — and continue to seal a significant percentage= of wine bottles today. In large measure, that is thanks to one man.

The next time you hear that distinctive “pop” sound when pulling a cork out of a wine bottle, say a silent word of thanks to Americo Ferreira de Amorim.

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Posted in Wine Buzz
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