Portuguese wine makes a comeback, demand increases in Asia

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    Portuguese wine

    The steep, rocky vineyards of Douro Valley are shown in Portugal in this handout photo taken on Sept. 10, 2003. Demand is growing for wine from the valley. Sogrape, Portugal’s biggest wine exporter, has been buying up estates in the Douro — the world’s oldest designated wine region. Source: Wine & Partners via Bloomberg

    Portuguese wine exporters Sogrape leads the way

    Sogrape, Portugal’s biggest wine exporter, has been leading the way in terms of mergers.

    After starting out as a wine bottler and distributor in Portugal in the early 1940s, the family-owned company began buying up estates in the Douro — the world’s oldest designated wine region — to create some of the country’s best known wine brands, including Mateus Rose, Barca Velha and Sandeman.

    “It’s so sweet,” said Kasumi Imai, a 73-year-old Japanese woman after tasting several ports during a tour of Sogrape’s Port Sandeman wine cellar in Vila Nova de Gaia, northern Portugal.

    Sogrape is also investing abroad. The Oporto, northern Portugal-based company has acquired Bodegas LAN, a Spanish winery famous for producing high-quality wines. Sogrape also owns wineries in Argentina, Chile and New Zealand.

    Sogrape’s Chief Executive Officer Salvador Guedes’s drive to increase exports has paid off. Sogrape wine sales are forecast to rise to 210 million euros last year from 179 million euros a year earlier, according to Guedes.

    Other wine producers are joining forces to promote their different brands of wines in markets as far away as China, where Portuguese wine sales increased 18 percent last year in the period through October, according to Portugal’s statistics office.

    Adrian Bridge, managing director of a 320-year-old family business that makes Croft, Fonseca and Taylor ports from vineyards in Portugal’s Douro region, formed a partnership with his main competitor in Portugal, the Symington Group, three years ago to set up a vintage port academy in China, where the name Portugal means “grape teeth.”

    “Everybody wants to talk about China but for us it is a market that is going to take some time to develop,” Bridge said in an interview from his family’s Yeatman Hotel, overlooking the city of Oporto. “We’re taking a long-term view that we have to develop that market through education.”

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    Source: Henrique Almeida/Bloomberg News

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