Women are taking over the cellars

Sandra Tavares da Silva, Filipa Pato, Sandra Gonçalves, Filipa Tomaz da Costa, Graça Gonçalves, Rita Marques Ferreira, Gabriela Canossa, Joana Roque do Vale, Lúcia Freitas, Susana Esteban. These are, but there could be many more, the winemakers that Pedro Garcias selected to paint a portrait of Portuguese wine for women. They have entered forcefully into the sacred space of wine, previously reserved for men, but they do not attach special importance to the phenomenon. “There are more women in the world of wine than there are in all professions”, comments one of them

The market is increasingly looking at women, producing wines that meet their tastes and sensitivity. But there is an irony in this dynamic: many of the wines that fill the wine cellars of specialty stores or large distribution chains are already made by women. They do not yet dominate the business, but they are also no longer confined to their mythological role as maenads, nor confined solely within the walls of a laboratory.

Less than two decades ago, finding 10 winemakers in Portugal for a report on the presence of women in the world of wine was almost a utopia. Today, we are already forced to define the group and leave many people out. For this portrait of women’s wine, we chose 10 winemakers with influence in the sector, but we could select many more. From north to south of the country, from Madeira to the Azores, there are dozens and dozens of women making wine. Many are not known, living subordinate to the tutelary figure of the consulting oenologist, but there are more and more people taking on the tasks of oenology alone.

The history of wine is full of legendary female figures. In Portugal, none came close to the protagonism that reached Dona Antónia Ferreira, “A Ferreirinha”, in the 19th century. She was a pioneer, not only because she took over leadership of the family’s vineyard and wine business, but also because she was successful. Some of the most important farms in today’s Douro, such as Vallado and Vale Meão, are her legacy.

Today’s “Ferreirinhas” are Leonor Freitas, who runs Casa Ermelinda de Freitas (Terras do Sado), Ana Cristina Ventura, the owner of Herdade dos Cadouços (Tejo), Catarina Vieira, the leader of Herdade do Rocim, Luísa Amorim, the person responsible for the wine business in the Douro of the Amorim family (Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo), and Laura Regueiro, the matriarch of the Douro family Quinta da Casa Amarela. They are not the only ones, there are many more, although not with the same relevance. If we go down from the administration to the winery, then the panorama is different. In the sacred space of wine, still dominated by men, there is an increasingly feminine accent.

Graça Gonçalves, winemaker at Quinta do Monte d’Oiro, does not attribute any special significance to the phenomenon. “There are more women in the world of wine than there are in all other professions. Before we didn’t see women in the troops, now we do. Before there were no women driving buses, now there are,” she says. Graça speaks of an achievement of democracy. “Today things happen more naturally. Before, only the daughters or wives of the owners were involved in wine. Men only wanted women for the laboratories, to be there. My generation [is 42 years old] still felt this firsthand”, she says. She herself lived an experience that clearly mirrors the stigmatization of women winemakers (see text alongside).

Filipa Tomás da Costa, the director of oenology at Bacalhôa and dean of Portuguese winemakers, thinks that women in wine are following the same path and experiencing the “same difficulties that all women feel when exercising professions previously reserved only for men” . “Europe is still a man’s world,” she maintains.

But she doesn’t really value the idea that women are asserting themselves in the world of wine because they are more sensitive. “We all have a tendency to put a little of our personal taste into our wines. I, for example, don’t like brutish wines. But the important thing is always the raw material. With bad fish, we can’t make a good fish dish “, it says.

The world of food really comes into its own and reveals the new times. Until recently, the kitchen was reserved for women. Now, men are in charge of restaurant pots. The same thing is happening in wine. Now they are the ones starting to show their hand in the cellar.


Sandra Tavares da Silva

38 years old, Quinta do Vale D. Maria

Sandra Tavares da Silva, already a mother of three children, is the beautiful face of Portuguese oenology. Her past as a model, during her time as a student, has always given her a special aura, but Sandra is much more than just a tall, beautiful and friendly woman. She is one of the best national winemakers, responsible for some of the most internationally awarded Portuguese wines. For example, the red CV 2008, from Quinta do Vale D. Maria, where she is the main winemaker, was the highest-scoring Portuguese wine by Robert Parker’s team in 2009, with 95 points out of a possible 100. The Quinta do Vale D. Maria 2008 red wine scored 93 points and Pintas 2008, a wine she makes in partnership with her husband, Jorge Serôdio Borges, achieved 94 points.

Since, in 1999, she landed in Douro, to work with Cristiano Van Zeller at Quinta do Vale D. Maria, one of the partners of the Douro Boys project, Sandra Tavares da Silva has not stopped gaining distinctions. The Douro was the last stage of her internship as an intern, after having graduated in agronomy at the Instituto Superior de Agronomia, in Lisbon, and having completed a master’s degree in oenology in Piacenza, Italy. “I already knew almost every region of the country, except the Douro. One day I asked Cristiano Van Zeller if he couldn’t get me an internship there and he invited me to go and intern at his Quinta do Vale D. Maria. I went and never but I left”, he says.

Despite having entered the world of fashion at the age of 16 and having modeled in Paris, Milan, London and New York, Sandra never had any doubts about her future. “I always wanted to return to the land world”, she guarantees. She was born in the Azores and spent most of her life in Lisbon. Her connection to the countryside began, from a young age, on the property her grandfather had in Alcochete and which was managed by her father, a Navy officer, but the fact that her mother was Swiss may also have had some influence. When she retired, her father wanted to buy the family property to dedicate himself to agriculture. As they could not reach an agreement, he decided to buy, in 1987, another property in Alenquer, Quinta da Chocapalha, which began producing its own wines in 2000, under the direction of Sandra Tavares da Silva.

However, Sandra’s life was already tied to the Douro. In 1999 she met Jorge Serôdio Borges, partner and main winemaker at Quinta do Passadouro, and they immediately started dreaming about a joint project. Two years later, they got married and Pintas was created, one of the wines that most contributes to the affirmation of the new Douro. Her children and the purchase of the old vineyards where Pintas is made, in Vale Mendiz, near Pinhão, came later, connecting her even more to the region.

Today, Sandra divides her time between Quinta de Chocapalha, Quinta do Vale D. Maria and Vale Mendiz, headquarters of Wine & Soul, a company she owns with her husband and which, in addition to Pintas, also produces Guru. If asked to choose the wine she is most attached to, she can’t say. “In different ways, everyone is important to me. Chocapalha is a family project, which I have with my father and my sisters, but I also feel a special affection for Quinta do Vale D. Maria, as it was where I learned and grew, and for Wine & Soul, as it is a partnership with my husband”, he summarizes. A mother is not asked to choose her favorite child.


Filipa Pato

35 years, FP Wines

Fugas found Filipa Pato in Antwerp, where she lives with her husband, sommelier William Wouters, and their newborn son. “When the vines are at rest, I am also at rest. I come here in November and return in March”, she explains.

Initially, she thought that living between Belgium and Bairrada would be complicated. “But it’s not as disruptive as I thought. Belgium is a central country and I can easily go to London or any other city in Europe to promote the wines,” she says.

One of these days, Filipa had a flashback and got scared. “I’ve been making wines for 10 years, time passes quickly.” She is 35 years old, but she already talks as if she lives a life among the vineyards and the cellar. In fact, she even takes it. “I always liked participating in the creation of wines. I remember working with my father [Luís Pato] since I was a little girl and being in the cellar during all the harvests”, she recalls.

There are three sisters – “we all had the same upbringing, but I was always the one most connected to wine”, she acknowledges. However, when it was time for university, she chose Chemical Engineering, following her father’s example. One of the sisters preferred architecture and the other studied electrical engineering. µ

± Already graduated, Filipa Pato wanted to leave Portugal. One possibility was to do a PhD in Montpellier, but, she confesses, she “didn’t feel like studying for another four years”. Her father got her an internship at one of the Axa group’s châteaux, in Bordeaux. “I went during the 1999 harvest, a super difficult harvest. It was very interesting to see how in Bordeaux [where each harvest is always considered the best of all] they acted in the face of a bad harvest”, she emphasizes.

Afterwards, she did an internship in Australia and Argentina, before definitively returning to Bairrada to work with her father and also start making her own wines, following the same philosophy as her father. “Authentic no makeup” wines that reflect the place where they are created. She started with the Ensaios project, a name well suited to a debutante. She then created Espumante 3b, which was and continues to be a huge success. She later launched the Lokal Sílex and Calcário wines. But she didn’t stop there. Irreverent and with a business sense like her father, she created the company Vinhos Doidos with her husband, through which they sell two white wines: Bossa, easier and more fragrant, and Nossa, more daring and which has had a brilliant career in Brazil. . “A few days ago, I called I heard a sommelier from Rio de Janeiro telling me that Walter Sales [Brazilian filmmaker and producer] liked the wine so much that he even wanted to meet me”, he says, with pride. Nossa is also on sale in Portugal and costs 25 euros.

Baga is her favorite grape variety, but “her” wines, the ones she is most attached to, are Nossa 2009, made from Bical, and Lokal Sílex 2008, blended from Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro Preto. The first comes from Bairrada, the second from Dão.

Since she started making wines, Filipa has limited her wine-growing territory to these two regions. Over and over she rented vineyards and bought grapes from some producers. After 10 years, she is about to focus solely on Bairrada and give up on Dão. If everything goes well, this year she will also be able to fulfill her big dream, which is to have her own vineyards in Bairrada. One of them will be very old. Filipa is excited (she was nominated for the year’s awards by Der Feinschmecker magazine, the most influential in Germany, and increasingly believes in the potential of Bairra’s wines). Some time ago you heard a French expert argue that, to make great wine, you need to have clay-limestone soils, good exposure and a temperate climate. “In Bairrada we have all of this,” he says.


Sandra Gonçalves

35 years old, Dona Maria

There are people who, through their influence, determine our future. But it is less common for a dictionary to dictate a career path. However, that is exactly what happened to Sandra Gonçalves, winemaker responsible for Dona Maria wines, heiress of the former Quinta do Carmo, in Estremoz.

When it came time to apply to university, Sandra Gonçalves considered some science courses and noticed one that she didn’t really know what she wanted to say. It was oenology. It was 1994, Sandra lived in Odivelas and had no connection to wine. She went to the dictionary and saw that “the definition was spectacular”, she recalls. And she applied to the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, in Vila Real, the institution from which came the generation of winemakers who have been changing the wine landscape in Portugal.

The first two years confirmed her best expectations and in the third year she had her first serious confrontation with the profession, when she went to do an internship at Quinta da Romeira, in Bucelas. “It was a test of our ability, because we worked more than 12 hours a day and the engineer Cancela de Abreu [the responsible winemaker] was very demanding”, she recalls. When she finished her internship, Sandra said to herself: “Whether it’s good or not, I’m sure this is what I want for my life.”

Certainties increased during the final internship, held at Quinta do Vallado, in Douro – “An extraordinary experience”, he confesses -, and during the year he worked with Cristiano Van zeller and Sandra Tavares da Silva at Quinta do Vale D. Maria . “I really liked it, but I was 26 years old and wanted to learn more and, to do that, I needed to work in another, bigger house,” she recalls.

The idea then came to him of going to work in Cortes de Cima, in Alentejo. “Hans Kristian Jorgensen [the owner] is a visionary, the house produces more commercial wines but in large quantities, and this experience was very important for me”, she says.

Meanwhile, Sandra fell in love with an Alentejo man, a winemaker at Quinta do Mouro, in Estremoz, and her life took another turn. At one point, winemaker Luís Duarte – “a person to whom I will be eternally grateful” – suggested his name to Júlio Bastos, who, after selling the Quinta do Carmo brand, was beginning to rebuild the legendary property under the new name Dona Maria. Júlio Bastos sold the brand, now owned by Bacalhôa Vinhos, but kept Quinta do Carmo, a beautiful 18th century palatial house located one kilometer from Estremoz. He planted new vines and bought an old vineyard, from which grapes were made into the old Alicante Bouschet wines that made the house and the region famous.

Luís Duarte was the consultant and, in 2003, Sandra Gonçalves joined as resident winemaker. In 2005, Luís Duarte left and Sandra took over the management of the house’s oenology, which is once again in the spotlight. The wines are getting better and better. “The old Quinta do Carmo wines are now extraordinary, but in the first five years they were undrinkable, they had a lot of extraction and concentration. Júlio’s idea is to take the profile of old wines and make them modern”, he explains, giving the Júlio wine as an example Bastos Alicante Bouschet Garrafeira 2004, his favorite. “The wine doesn’t age in the bottle, it still has fantastic aromas. It’s very thick and the tannins are very present, hard but at the same time round, if that’s what you can say.”


Filipa Tomaz da Costa

52 years old, Quinta da Bacalhôa

“Maybe, apart from D. Antónia [Ferreirinha], I was the first Portuguese winemaker”, says, half joking, Filipa Tomaz da Costa, director of oenology at Bacalhôa Vinhos. At 52 years old, she is the dean of national winemakers.

When, in 1981, she joined the João Pires winery & Filhos, in Azeitão, there was still no oenology course in Portugal. Filipa took agronomy, which was the most similar.

Coming from a family from Vila Franca de Xira with no wine-growing history, she had the same connection with wine “as all Portuguese”. “We all have some relationship with wine. Mine was through the small winery that my grandfather had in Vila Franca de Xira and the harvesting that I did as a child in my mother’s family vineyards, in Gouveia”, she says.

Even before finishing the course, she was invited to do a harvest at João Pires by the company’s new shareholder, fellow agronomist António Francisco Avilez, who had acquired the majority of the capital from José Maria da Fonseca at the end of the seventies of the last century. . “Between making cakes or wine, I preferred making wine”, she remembers, always laughing. She harvested the grapes and never left the house again.

At the time, João Pires was dedicated to selling bulk wine. At the beginning of the following decade, António Avilez began to develop his own brands. As soon as she entered, Filipa witnessed the first bottling of Quinta da Bacalhôa wine. Today, she does it.

30 years have passed and a lot has changed since then. João Pires was acquired by a multinational and became J.P. Vinhos. Continuing to diversify its portfolio, the company created the J.P line, of cheaper wines, which proved to be a commercial success. J.P. wine is today the best-selling brand in Portugal.

In 1995, Joe Berardo entered the company’s capital and three years later became the main shareholder. In 2000, he bought the farm and Palácio da Bacalhôa and J.P. Vinhos was renamed Bacalhôa Vinhos.

Looking back on her career, Filipa recognizes that when she joined João Pires, the world of wine was inhabited almost exclusively by men. The few women there were were either owners or daughters of the boss, and, at most, “they took over the commercial side or the laboratory, never production”, she recalls.

Filipa felt “the same problems that all women who take on professions previously reserved for men feel”. In the early days, faxes often arrived with Filipe’s name.

Today, being a winemaker has become something trivial. However, it is still not that common to find women leading the production of millions of liters of wine. But it is in this dimension that Filipa works. Among brands such as J.P. Quinta da Bacalhôa, Catarina, Má Partilha and Cova da Ursa, among table wines and muscat, it is responsible for the production of more than eight million liters.

Of all the company’s wines, it is the white Quinta da Bacalhôa that she feels most connected to, because “it is a project that goes from planting the vineyard to producing the wine”. “And I’m still learning,” she says. However, the wines she likes most are white Burgundy. “But they’re so expensive that you can’t drink them often,” she laments.


Graça Gonçalves

42 years old, Quinta do Monte d”Oiro

The wines from Quinta do Monte d’Oiro, in Alenquer, are the face and soul of its owner, José Bento dos Santos. But since 2005, they have had the hand of Graça Gonçalves, the house’s technical director, behind them.

She is a woman, born in Trás-os-Montes (Bragança), but she should have been a man. In the middle of the last decade, Bento dos Santos was looking for someone to take over the oenology and viticulture of the farm and he had the image of a man in his head, who knows why. In conversation with a professor at the Instituto Superior de Agronomia (ISA), he explained the professional he needed and the professor responded. “I know this person, except she’s a woman.” “The engineer Bento dos Santos wanted to meet me, he invited me to visit the farm, I really liked him and I think he liked me too and I started working”, recalls Graça Gonçalves. µ

±Graduated at ISA in Agro-Industrial Engineering, Graça attended the first master’s degree in viticulture and enology at that institute. Previously, she had already participated in research into polyphenols at the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Lisbon. From the agro-industrial sector, “wine was what asked the most” of her, she explains.

During his master’s degree, he worked on wine contamination microbiology with professor and winemaker Virgílio Loureiro and participated in the development of a differential culture medium for the detection of yeasts of the genus Dekkera/ Brettanomyces, which has been commercialized all over the world. .

Her first experience as a winemaker took place in 1994, with the Arinto grape variety, in Bucelas. She then worked for a few months at Adega Cooperativa de Arruda dos Vinhos, before joining as an assistant professor at the Escola Superior Agrária de Santarém, where she taught wine technology and oenology for eight years. During this period, she was responsible for the school’s wine cellar and always remained linked to production. “We made wines for some producers and consulted for others,” she recalls.

When she was starting her doctorate, the invitation came from Quinta do Monte d “Oiro and Graça Gonçalves not is losing the opportunity to work for someone I admired and whose wines I already enjoyed. “It was almost a dream,” she confesses.

In the early days, Graça still had the support of Luís Carvalho and his son, Tiago Carvalho, but, from 2006 onwards, she began to take on the farm’s oenology alone, albeit with the occasional support of Grégory Viennois, technical director of Maison M Chapoutier. One of the estate’s great wines, the red ex-aequo, is, moreover, a partnership between Bento dos Santos and Michel Chapoutier, one of the stars of French oenology.

But the wine that Graça Gonçalves likes most, for the enjoyment it brings to its preparation, is the white Madrigal, made from Viognier. “It’s a very difficult wine to make. With a red it’s easier to make the right choice. The wine has undergone some changes and I think it’s better now,” she says.


Rita Marques Ferreira

28 years old, Concept

If life followed its normal course, Rita Marques Ferreira would today be a civil engineer and, who knows, a professor at the University of Coimbra. Her parents have degrees in civil engineering and teach at this university. Rita was destined to follow in their footsteps, but, in order not to have her parents as teachers, she decided to enter a different branch of engineering, mechanics. She still attended the course for two years: “I didn’t like it and decided to change to oenology”, she says.

The parents didn’t like the idea very much. “They thought winemaking wasn’t really a course. Then they got used to it,” she recalls. The fact that Rita’s family, on her mother’s side, owns vineyards in Cedovim, in the Douro municipality of Vila Nova de Foz Côa, helped alleviate her parents’ frustration and may have contributed to their daughter’s decision. But what really determined the choice of oenology was the circumstance of “having started to like wine at that time”, she says.

Rita Marques Ferreira was 21 years old when she moved from Coimbra to the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, in Vila Real. The first harvest she did, halfway through the course, was at Quinta do Passadouro, next to Pinhão, with winemaker Jorge Serôdio Borges, the creator of Pintas wine, among others. The second was at Quinta de Nápoles, with Dirk Niepoort. She completed her third year at Château Montelana, in California, and then entered the Erasmus program to complete her final year of coursework in Bordeaux, where her teacher was Denis Dubourdieu, one of the most renowned French winemakers. In addition to being a consultant for more than 30 companies, Dubourdieu has his own châteaux in the Bordeaux region and Rita harvested grapes in one of them, the château Reynon. “He was, by far, the best winemaker I’ve ever worked with,” she confesses.

But Rita does not devalue her forays into the New World of Wine (in addition to California, where she met French winemakers, she did internships in New Zealand and South Africa), nor her initiatory experience in the Douro. From contact with Jorge Serôdio Borges and Dirk Niepoort, she was “sure that this was what [making wines] was what she liked and what she wanted to do”, she says. Jorge Serôdio Borges helped her, in fact, to make her first wine, when she was 23 years old. He called it Pangaea, but did not continue with it, since the brand was already registered by another producer.

Meanwhile, with her grandfather’s death, Rita’s mother took over management of the farm in Cedovim. In 2005, the two launched the Conceito project, the main brand of the family company and which, explains the winemaker, is used for the wines that they “feel like making” and that they try to sell. One of them is the red Bastardo, an unloved grape variety in the Douro but with potential. For wines that are easier to drink and sell, the Contraste brand was created.

The first wines, around 10 thousand bottles, began to be sold that year. In 2010, production reached 150 thousand bottles and the ambition is to reach “400 thousand”. At 28 years old, Rita Marques Ferreira has already earned her place in Douro and country oenology, confirming herself as one of the most talented winemakers of her generation.

Last year, Rita returned to New Zealand to make her own wine, a white Sauvignon Blanc with the same aromatic exuberance that the variety achieves in that country but with more volume and structure. It produced 25 thousand bottles, which recently began to be sold on the national market. Last week, she traveled to South Africa, where she will repeat the experience, this time with a red. At this time, she should already be harvesting.


Gabriela Canossa

37 years old, Quinta da Revolta

The late harvest Grandjó, from Real Companhia Velha, will always be one of the wines in the life of winemaker Gabriela Canossa, a 37-year-old from Porto. It is one of the most renowned sweet whites in the country and its fame dates back to 1925, when the Silva Reis family produced a white from the Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc grape varieties that would prove to be eternal. Some bottles of this wine remained forgotten in the Company’s cellars for decades and when they were discovered, 85 years later, the wine was formidable.

This discovery led Real Companhia Velha to repeat the experience in 2002, when Gabriela Canossa was responsible for the company’s Fine Wine Division. The success was enormous and Real returned to producing Grandjó, always in small quantities, in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Gabriela Canossa was involved in the first three harvests. In June 2006, she left the company, putting an end to a seven-year relationship. The winemaker joined Real Companhia Velha to replace Jorge Moreira, who had left to make his own wine in the Douro, Poeira, and take over winemaking at Quinta de La Rosa. In 2010, Jorge Moreira returned to Real as head of the company’s oenology, which was previously handled by the American Jerry Luper.

From her time at the Company, Gabriela Canossa also brings the satisfaction of having also been responsible for the launch of Quinta do Cidrô Pinot Noir wine and the experience of working in a company that sold more than eight million bottles. Now, she is coordinator of the tasting panel for Wine Passion magazine, she is creating, from scratch, a bold project in the Douro for a businessman and is responsible for the wines of three producers – Casas Altas (Beiras), Quinta do Vale de Bragão and Quinta da Revolta (Douro)-, which, together, produce no more than 250 thousand bottles.

Ironically, one of them, Quinta do Vale de Bragão, located in Sabrosa, was at the origin, 20 years ago, of her decision to dedicate herself to oenology, when “I was already prepared to be an artist”, she recalls. Gabriela had followed the arts route during secondary school, but, at a certain point, she felt “the need for contact with nature” and decided “to go and study at the Escola Agrícola de Santo Tirso”, she says. It was in this city that she met doctor Asdrúbal Mendes, during a consultation, and in conversation, asked him if he was aware of the opening of the oenology course in Vila Real. Gabriela didn’t know, but she was interested. As soon as she finished her regency in agriculture, she enrolled at the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, where she took an oenology course.

During the course, she interned at Taylor’s. Already graduated, she opened an art gallery in Vila Real and went to harvest at Real Companhia Velha. She stayed for seven years. During this period, her paths crossed again with of Asdrúbal Mendes, who sold grapes for that company. When Gabriela Canossa left Real, Quinta do Vale de Bragão also stopped working with the Silva Reis family and hired the winemaker. “Dr. Asdrúbal often says that he is like Zandinga and that he had prepared for me to go 20 years ago, when he spoke to me about the oenology course in Vila Real”, he jokes.

Gabriela has no doubt that that consultation in Santo Tirso was decisive for the direction her life took. “My family has no connection to wine, it’s a bunch of urban depressives,” she says. The art gallery was still open for five years.


Joana Roque do Vale,

37 years old, Roquevale

Joana Roque do Vale’s connection to wine dates back to her childhood, in Torres Vedras, where her great-grandfathers were already producers. But the moment that determined the family’s future came in 1976, in the aftermath of the April revolution, when Joana’s father, Carlos Roque do Vale, stopped studying and left Torres Vedras for Redondo, to take care of his father-in-law’s properties. , the Monte Branco and Madeira estates (around 200 hectares in total). Three years later, Carlos became president of Adega Cooperativa do Redondo and in 1983 he created a partnership with his father-in-law. µ

± Roquevale was then born.

In 1989, Carlos left the presidency of the winery and dedicated himself full time to the company, which, that year, opened its own winery and launched the brands Terras de Xisto, Tinto da Talha and Redondo. The father-in-law left the company in the meantime and, in his place, came his mother’s first cousin, Clara Roque do Vale, who, also in 1989, was appointed by the Ministry of Agriculture to preside over the new Alentejana Regional Wine Commission. Clara was an employee of the Alentejo Regional Directorate of Agriculture and headed the Commission until 2001.

When Roquevale launched its first wines, Joana was about to finish high school and start studying agro-industrial engineering at the Escola Superior Agrária de Beja. “In Torres Vedras, I walked between the vineyards and the winery. In Alentejo, I continued to walk between the vineyards and the winery. I never thought about anything else”, she says, justifying the option.

The curricular internship was carried out at Herdade do Esporão, where coordinators were engineer Rosário do Colaço, one of the most renowned national viticulture technicians, and winemaker Luís Duarte, who was also a consultant at Roquevale. In 1995, Joana completed her course and started working in the family business, doing everything. “I was an analyst, winemaker, pulls hoses. I was a jack of all trades”, she remembers.

The following year, Luís Duarte stopped being a consultant and Joana began to take on the winemaking at Roquevale alone, a role she continues to hold. When she arrived at the company, production was around 300 thousand bottles. Today, Roquevale sells more three million liters of wine. It is the second largest private company in Alentejo.

Five years ago, Roquevale underwent major changes. Carlos Roque do Vale remained as a partner but left the management of the company, which was now led by an external manager. In 2000, father and daughter, together with a friend, had purchased 65 hectares of vineyards in Pias and created the company Monte da Capela. After restructuring the vineyards, they built a winery, which began operating in 2010. Under the brands Terras de Pias, Herdade da Capela, Monte da Capela and Adega de Pias, this company already sells around 800 thousand liters.

Joana, who has lived in Vila Real since last year (she goes to Alentejo every week), makes wines for both companies and is also responsible for the foreign market of both. “It’s a huge challenge to make so much wine on a consistent basis from year to year. And I take great pride in making wines for all occasions, from 2 to 20 euros,” she says. Any winemaker makes good garage wine. The most difficult thing is to make large volume wines with a good quality/price ratio. Joana achieves it and that is her great merit.


Lucia Freitas

31 years old, Dão Sul

Those born in the interior always have a connection to the vineyard and wine. Almost everyone has vines, even if it is bordering the backyard or as a vine outside the house. In Carregal do Sal, where she was born, Lúcia Freitas had as her reference her grandfather’s small farm, just over two hectares of vineyards, where she discovered the beauty and harshness of the harvest ritual.

It was not a remarkable experience, one of those that define a destination. When it came time to enter university, Lúcia only had three options: mathematics, physics or chemistry. The first two reserved for her a career as a teacher, the last opened up more job prospects. And it was with this reasoning that she enrolled in chemical engineering at the University of Coimbra.

When she finished the course, she went to work in a laboratory, but quickly realized that spending most of her time confined between four walls and pipettes was not what she imagined for her life. She left and went to work for the company Dão Sul… but for the laboratory. She explained that it wasn’t exactly what she liked to do and, in the first year, they let her do the harvesting. It was in 2005.

Since then, she has never stopped climbing the company ladder. In 2006, she was already the coordinator of the Quinta de Cabriz winery. In 2008, together with Carlos Rodrigues and Carlos Lucas, the main winemaker and administrator of Global Wines, to which Dão Sul belongs, he became responsible for all the group’s wineries in Portugal: Quinta de Cabriz, Casa de Santar, Quinta do Meeting, Herdade Monte da Cal, Quinta das Tecedeiras and Encostas do Douro. Her job, she explains, “is to coordinate the younger winemakers and taste and define the lots with Carlos Rodrigues and Carlos Lucas, who have the last word.” “Before, I was more on the ground, now I do more coordination work,” she explains.

In 2009, Carlos Moura and Casimiro Castro, who, with Carlos Rodrigues and Carlos Lucas, formed the core of Dão Sul and inspired the creation of a wine with the name Quinta de Cabriz Four C, left the company. The brand was created and was a success. The way to maintain it was to find a new narrative. The designation Four C is no longer associated with the four managers with names starting with “C” and now corresponds to the four winemakers currently working at Dão Sul, with Lúcia Freitas at the head. That’s why, when asked to name the wine she’s most attached to, she immediately mentions the white Four C, from Dão. From 2008 onwards, the wine started to be made only by the in-house winemakers. “They gave us free reign to do whatever we wanted,” she says, and the result has been highly praised. Four C 2009 is one of the best white wines from Dão.

Of the wines she has tasted recently, Lúcia Freitas highlights the Douro red Vale Meão 2004. “Perfect, without any edges”, she sums up. But, if one day she comes to make her wine, it will be in Dão. Not only for effective reasons, but because, especially in white people, “it has immense potential”. “The Dão is underutilized, there are few companies making good wines, but even so, the best white wines in the country have been made in this region”, she argues.


Susana Esteban

41 years, Solar dos Lobos

The Galicians are closely linked to the history of the Douro. It was they, together with hordes of workers coming from Beiras and Trás-os-Montes, who built a large part of the vineyard landscape classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001. The hardest work and their heroism are still reserved for the Galicians today. He is remembered with the phrase “you work like a Galician”.

But times have changed and, in recent years, some Galicians have returned to the Douro as owners of important farms in the region. The first were bankers from Caixanova, in Vigo, who in 1998 bought part of the capital of Sogevinus, a company that held a majority stake in A.A. Cálem & Filhos S.A. Today, Caixanova owns some of the most traditional Port wine companies, such as Barros & Almeida, Kopke and Burmester. In 1999, it was the turn of the company Proinsa, from A Coruña, to also invest in the Douro, with the purchase of Quinta de Ventozelo. Even before these two investors, a Galega from Tui, Susana Esteban, had already arrived in the Douro, who would play an important role in the development and national and international affirmation of the region’s table wines.

However, it was with Port wine that Susana started. With a degree in chemistry, she completed her master’s degree in viticulture and oenology in Rioja and, when she won a scholarship to do an internship in a European Union country, she chose Portugal and the Douro. “I was interested in Port wine and, in 1996, I interned at Sandeman [when it was still a family business],” she recalls. In this company, she came into contact with all phases of wine production, starting with the ritual of harvesting in the Douro. “I was impressed with the region,” she says. After the internship ended, she returned to Spain.

One day, she saw an advertisement in the newspaper for Quinta do Côtto, owned by Miguel Champalimaud, who was looking for a production director. Susana competed and was chosen. It was 1999. “I really enjoyed working with Miguel Champalimaud,” she says. She stayed there for three years and, in 2002, the Roquette family convinced her to move to Quinta do Crasto, where Susana lived her glory years. “It was a defining experience,” she assures. The Galician winemaker passed on some of the wines that made Quinta do Crasto world famous and helped the “quiet revolution” of Douro table wines.

But life is made up of difficult decisions and, in 2007, after having married wine critic and columnist for Fugas Rui Falcão, Susana put family interests first and, “with great regret”, she says, she exchanged the Douro for Lisbon. Since then, Susana has stopped being a resident winemaker and has become just a consultant. Currently, she is linked to five projects in Alentejo: Solar dos Lobos, Monte dos Cabaços, Tiago Cabaço Wines, Perescuma and Azamor. “I’m loving it. It’s been an interesting challenge,” she says. Alentejo is not the Douro and Susana no longer has the same visibility as she had when, through Crasto, she was part of the Douro Boys. But the Portuguese will still hear a lot about it. Susana is not just any winemaker. At 41 years old, she is part of the group of the best. In 2010, production reached 150 thousand bottles and the ambition is to reach “400 thousand”. At 28 years old, Rita Marques Ferreira has already earned her place in Douro and country oenology, confirming herself as one of the most talented winemakers of her generation.

Last year, Rita returned to New Zealand to make her own wine, a white Sauvignon Blanc with the same aromatic exuberance that the variety achieves in that country but with more volume and structure. It produced 25 thousand bottles, which recently began to be sold.


Source: Público

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