(English) Two controversial points in my speech at Vindouro

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  • Tom Archer

    Oscar, I tend to agree with you.

    On the first point, simple logic suggests that varietal blocks make more sense than field mixes; but if that is truly the case, why was it not done generations ago?

    I feel there must have been a very good reason for the field mix, that may now be forgotton.

    On the second point, I really don’t understand how the table wine market can be profitable, unless it is getting heavy subsidy from the EU.

    As you know, the Douro is a very labour intensive wine region, that does not have the economies of scale and mechanisation that the Australians enjoy, or the availability of very cheap labour, that can be found in South America.

    The Douro wine makers believe that their product is very special and very valuable, but the buyers of wine abroad have yet to agree.

    There is now too much wine production in the world, and the competition is raising the quality of the cheapest wines to a level that we have never seen before.

    I think it will be very difficult for the new Portuguese producers to make a profit from table wine, without the benefit of subsidy.

    I am not sure how much help to winemakers now comes from the EU, but as the EU now has many problems, I think it is unwise to assume that any help will continue.

  • http://winewomantravel.wordpress.com cynthia

    Tom – to your good reason for field mix now forgotten – the answer is, traditional small farmers were hedging their bets. Different varieties thrive / fail in different conditions, so a mixture of vines meant no matter what happened they got SOME harvest and from it hopefully some income. The “danger” of single block plantings is if that varietal can’t cope with this year’s weather, small scale farmer faces dead loss. For larger producers, the “virtue” of single block plantings means they can vinify varietals separately and then craft a blend of finished component wines to whatever percentages of varietals will give them the style result they wish for ultimate marketed product. Douro winemakers – and many other Portuguese winemakers from several regions, but personally I’ve heard it expressed most eloquently in the Do – do believe passionately in the special qualities of their wines, and are waking up to the need for marketing. Some can do it themselves, organisations like ViniPortugal are helping overall. It may at times feel hopeless, but remember Chianti and lots of other regions that were a joke early on have done the trick of changing their worldwide image. If they could, Portugal can too… just you wait! Oscar: fabulous post, thank you.

  • http://www.quevedoportwine.com oscar

    Great comments Tom! Currently the EU doesn’t give us any subsidy, the big help comes from Port Wine. While we keep an administrative monopoly for the production of Port Wine, prices for grapes to be used in still wine will keep low because winemakers make profits from grapes for Port Wine, getting a margin to make cheaper wine. I think liberalizing completely the production of Port Wine would be bad for Port, but the current situation is seems a bit unfair, specially for those who are focused on Port.

    For the grapes I think we are all on the same boat and Cynthia made it very clear.

  • Joe Gates

    Oscar, It is my understanding that the EU provided funding for new plantings of “the top five” varietals in the Douro. Is this a big factor in the loss of the other varietals? Here in the US, Douro table wine is promoted as a great buy or great value which it is, maybe it should cost more.

  • http://www.quevedoportwine.com oscar

    Hi Joe,

    In the 1980s the World Bank funded Douro growers to plant new vineyards with recommended grapes (not only “the top five”) at lower interest rates. Nowadays, EU funds any vine grower, from any state, in case he wants to replant his vineyards. There is no special treatment for the Douro valley or for Portugal. We can be more competitive because of cheaper labor but the steepness of hills makes it more difficult and costly to work.

  • Michael Hann

    Just to list another possibility. Maybe some of the varietal diversity resulted from practical considerations such as replanting only a few dead vines each year with whatever varietal was popular or cheapest at that time? Over an extended period of time, you can imagine how a vineyard would come to have a wide number of intermixed varietal plantings.