International varietals could be the future for Portuguese wine

03 July, 2012

CEO of Sogrape Vinhos, Francisco Ferreira, has ventured that the planting of further international varietals could help to attract more consumers to Portuguese wine.

Talking to Drinks International in Vinho Verde, Ferreira said that while indigenous grape varietals are Portuguese wine’s “point of differentiation”, foreign consumers may need to see more familiar grapes as part of the offering.

He said: “We have more than 280 varietals in the country and our vineyards have been here for a long time. But some Portuguese varietals are almost impossible to pronounce [outside of Portugal], so there is work to be done there – we need to give a bridge [to consumers] to that world.”

“Some international varietals could be an answer. Blends are the right path – an international varietal as part of a blend could hook consumers in.”

Bárbara Roseira, marketing assistant at the Vinho Verde commission, which codifies and controls the yield and quality of production within the north western region, told Drinks International the emphasis should be on promoting Portugal’s indigenous styles.

She said: “Control over varietals protects the individuality of the region. Otherwise wines will end up being the same all over the world.”

Ferreira - who presides over a group that conducts 70% of its business outside of Portugal, and has seen growth in Eastern Europe and Africa offset the stagnating European region – said there is a gap between the vast improvements made in Portuguese wine and consumer appreciation.

“There was a revolution in Portuguese winemaking. We have better technology, vineyards, winemaking techniques, so the quality of the wine has improved a lot over the last 20 years.”

“The level of knowledge [about Portuguese wine] is not as high as we would like it to be. The UK is the trend setter as far as Europe is concerned, but Portugal does not have [its own] space on the supermarket shelf or on the menus in restaurants – our wine is placed under ‘others’. We need to spread the word.”

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