Portuguese wine makes a comeback, demand increases in Asia

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    The Douro Boys: One of Portugal’s top winemakers

    Portuguese wine

    Niepoort Vinhos’s Dirk van der Niepoort, from left, Quinta do Crasto’s Miguel Roquette, Quinta Vale Meao’s Francisco Olazabal, Quinta do Vallado ‘s Joao Alvares Ribeiro Ferreira and Quinta do Vale Dona Maria ‘s Cristiano van Zeller, also known as The Douro Boys. (Photo Wine & Partners via Bloomberg)

    The Douro Boys are doing the same. They are five of the Douro region’s top winemakers: Dirk van der Niepoort from Niepoort Vinhos, Miguel Roquette from Quinta do Crasto, Francisco Olazabal from Quinta Vale Meao, Joao Alvares Ribeiro from Quinta do Vallado and Cristiano van Zeller from Quinta do Vale Dona Maria.

    “We formed a partnership about 10 years ago to promote our wines and the Douro region in foreign markets,” Cristiano van Zeller said in a telephone interview. “We’ve managed to put Douro on the map. It’s been a huge success.”

    Yet some winemakers have remained successful going at it alone in key markets such as Brazil. Piriquita red, a table wine, is today the bestselling European wine in the former Portuguese colony, according to Antonio Soares Franco, whose family-owned company Jose Maria da Fonseca produces the wine from grapes that grow in the plains of Southern Portugal.

    “It’s our best export market,” Soares Franco said.

    Others prefer to ride on the coattails of the bigger companies who spend millions of dollars promoting their wines in foreign markets such as Brazil, China and Angola as opposed to merging with these bigger companies.

    Pedro Tamagnini, whose Quinta dos Avidagos estate produces just 80,000 bottles a year, sends international wine brokers video footage of his green-terraced vineyards along the Douro river to explain his production process and increase sales.

    “The trick is to be creative when you have a limited budget,” Tamagnini said.

    Ricardo Guerra, the entrepreneur who helped produce and sell the bottle of Benfeito wine in Luanda in 2011 for a record price, is another case in point. After the auction, he set up his own wine distributor in Angola, which last year bought more Portuguese wine than any other country except for France, according to the statistics office in Portugal.

    “Business is going well,” the 32-year-old Guerra in a telephone interview from Luanda. “People still refer to me as the guy who sold the $20,000 bottle of wine.”

    Muse highlights include Scott Reyburn on the art market, Warwick Thompson on London theater, Erika Lederman on London going out and Shaun Walker on the Bolshoi ballet.

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    Source: Henrique Almeida/Bloomberg News

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