Last month, for the first time, I visited Canada. I was in Toronto for the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo, an event in which final consumers have access to a broad range of wines, from all parts of the world. By paying some dollars, people can enjoy a glass or two of a wine that not always is available to the general public.
In the Canadian market, the LCBO, Licor Control Board of Ontario, which is a Government-owned company, is the only entity selling alcohol in public store. Having this kind of monopoly for wine retailing, LCBO is one of the most important and powerful alcohol purchasers in the world. Therefore, the wine range available in store is based on the perception of what the managers of the LCBO think the Canadian consumer prefers. However, there are a large number of wine agents, who have a large selection of wines, some available at the LCBO, but most not, which can sell directly to the public, in what is known as private order.
In the fair there was a place where thematic tasting were being held. One of those tastings, Fortified Finale, was guided by Claudius Fehr, a previous category manager specialized in Port Wine at the LCBO. I was honored to be invited by Mr. Fehr to present our Ports at the tasting. But instead of talking about our Ports, I would rather show you a video of Claudius presenting a regular Tawny Port, from Quinta da Pedra Alta, a producer in Alijó, which is available at the LCBO. And this is a nice Port.
Let me know if you have any questions about this specific and complex market. I’m not sure if I can help you out, but at least I will try. Otherwise we ask for the help of my friend Steve Santos, who lives there as has a nice understanding of the market.
Today I was in one of those places that you don’t really know if you will ever have a chance to visit during your life, though you know that you really wanted to. It is a well respected place, for its history, tradition and impact on the society. That place is the Harvard University. Here, I had the chance, together with my friend Luiz Alberto from The Wine Hub, to give a seminar about Port Wine and the Douro. All came from nothing (as almost all good things in life), when I was confronted with the possibility of heading to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to share with the Wine Club from the Harvard Law School what is Port Wine, where is the Douro and what makes both so special.
All this resulted in an amazing experience. The students at the seminar were well interested in knowing more about Port, which some of them, were trying for the first time. Seeing the faces and feeling the excitement of this young and clever crowd of future judges, lawyers, senators or entrepreneurs, makes me believe that there future ahead of Port Wine is going to continue as long and bright as it has been. Some days are special, and today is one of those for me. Cheers!
The presentation of film Life on the Douro in California came to the end. Judging by the comments of the people it was a large success. Those who have never been neither in the Douro or Porto, could see how beautiful and breathtaking (using Dominic Symington words) the landscape is and long, complex and puzzling the history has become. Even for those who visit regularly the Douro valley, and there were some, there is always something new, something yet to be discovered that Zev Robinson’s film brings to us. As I said to Zev after the SF screening, the more I see the film, the better I enjoy it!
After the screening, people could experience a tasting of Douro still wines and Ports, from a dozen of producers. If I well remember, these are the producers that donated bottles for the tasting: Dow’s, Ferreira, Graham’s, Niepoort, Quevedo, Quinta do Crasto, Quinta do Portal, Quinta do Vale Meão, Sandeman, Taylor’s.
The screening rooms chosen for the presentation also had their piece of history. And what a history! In Hollywood, Los Angeles, the Chaplin Theater was the place where Charlin Chaplin used to present his films to friends. Can you imagine what I felt when I saw the Douro projected on the same screen where Chaplin project his projects? It made me shiver… In San Francisco the history of the room is different, is more related with the institution that runs all the facility. Delancey Stree Foundation is a self-help organization for former substance abusers, ex-convicts, homeless and others who have hit bottom. And there we were, helping those you need to be helped
Currently, the global economic situation, with a local and international crisis with reduction of Port Wine production and the difficulties that some vinegrowers are facing, made me reflect about the impact of the Port Wine production in the population of the Douro valley. Is Port Wine really increasing life standards of the population that live in the region, when compared with the surrounding areas of the Douro valley? Put in another way, is it worth for the population, to grow vines and make Port Wine, or would it be better to focus on something else?
Trying to get some figures that could give us a hint to reply to these questions, I went to the INE – Portuguese Statistics Institute. I searched for the per capita purchasing power indicator by town. The data show two groups: population from towns mainly within the Douro region and another from municipalities surrounding the Douro (outside or barely inside the region). In this analysis are excluded major cities either inside and outside of the region that have a major part of the services sector in their local economies (such as Vila Real, Lamego, Chaves or BraganÃ§a). The last series available is from 2007, which is more than okay for what we need.
These are the results:
Towns within the Douro
Peso da RÃ©gua — 76,68
MesÃ£o Frio — 55,93
SÃ£o JoÃ£o da Pesqueira — 55,05
Torre de Moncorvo — 54,31
Vila Nova de Foz CÃ´a — 54,01
Freixo de Espada Ã Cinta — 53,52
Sabrosa — 52,30
MurÃ§a — 52,23
Alijó Ã³ — 51,26
Vila Flor — 50,70
Armamar — 49,83
Santa Marta de PenaguiÃ£o — 49,74
MÃªda — 49,19
TabuaÃ§o — 47,75
Carrazeda de AnsiÃ£es — 47,64
Average — 54,25
Towns out of the Douro
Miranda do Douro — 63,09
Tarouca — 59,06
Celorico da Beira — 55,72
AlfÃ¢ndega da FÃ© — 55,40
Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo — 54,80
Moimenta da Beira — 54,03
Mogadouro — 53,85
Vila Pouca de Aguiar — 52,46
Castro Daire — 52,23
Vimioso — 51,15
Boticas — 48,74
Resende — 47,95
Penedono — 47,71
Sernancelhe — 46,95
Surprisingly, there is no difference in the per capita purchasing power by town, in % of the whole country. This means that on average, the purchasing power of those living in the Douro valley is 54% of the whole country, and those living in the surroundings of the Douro have exactly the same figure, 54%. This is frustrating, it means that the Port Wine industry was able to make Port Wine the most well know product from Portugal but failed to improve the life standards of the population where it is made.
It has arrived the moment to share with you (at least to some of) the documentary Life on the Douro. I have been talking about it several times during the last year. Almost every single visit that Zev Robinson, its father, was making to the Douro was mentioned here. After the premiere in the Douro Film Harvest last September, now it is time to go abroad, first to Canada and US in November, and then to Europe in December.
In the Americas Life on the Douro will be screening on Saturday, November 12, at the Toronto International Portuguese Film Festival http://www.portuguesefilmfestival.com/en/synopsis.html
Few days later, Zev’s film will be showing in Los Angeles and San Francisco on November 15 and 17, followed by a tasting of Port and still wines produced by a handful of producers from the region. Doors open at 6 PM and the film will start at 6:30, followed by a Q&A, and a wine tasting presented by Roy Hersh of www.fortheloveofport.com and me. I hope to see there some of you there, at least those who read us from the Pacific cost.
The venues are:
Chaplin Theater and Raleigh Cafe,
5300 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles CA 90038
Tickets are $32.00 and can be purchased here – http://lifeonthedouroinla.eventbrite.com/
Delancey Street San Francisco
Screening Room and Private Club
San Francisco, CA 94107
Tickets are $32.00 and can be purchased here – http://lifeonthedouroinsanfrancisco.eventbrite.com/
For we all to better know Zev Robinson, I have put on the top an interview made by Luiz Alberto and Roy Hersh.
Should you have any question, please leave it on the comments section and I’ll be happy to help you!
With the harvest gone, it is time now to talk about one of the most important machines that we use to make wine. The destemmer crusher plays a very important role in the whole process of making wine. This is how it works:
- First, the grapes get into a cylinder, which is rotating at high speed.
- Then, the paddles beat the grape, making it jump out of the stem and dropping into the crusher.
- The crusher will gently break the berry, but not the seed, which goes then to the fermentation container. Many gently crushed berries together compose what we know as must, which will later become wine.
- For the stem, the cycle is different as it will then continue to the other side of the cylinder, where it will be removed to a container outside of the winery. After some months it is ready to be used in soils with high pH as a fertilizer.
But better than words is this video that I made during the harvest. It’s all in Portuguese, but unfortunately I made an English version, which, for some reason, disappeared…I hope that it helps you to train your Portuguese! Fixed!
Any question or comment?
Another European wine bloggers conference gone. This time we met in Brescia, Franciacorta, Italy. As expected, there was a big focus on the sparkling wines from Franciacorta, which are nowadays known not only in Europe but a little bit everywhere. As I am not a fan of sparkling wines, I was satisfied to see other Italian wine regions represented, as well as Austrian and Chilean wines. This year there were well over 200 attendees, reaching the reasonable limit for the conference with this format, in which we try to meet most of the people present at the event.
From Portugal there were not many people but I was happy to see that we are no longer alone as Port Wine producers. Sogrape was present in the last two editions, but this year two other Port producers joined us, JoÃ£o Roseira from Quinta do Infantado and Cynthia Jenson representing Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos.
The highlight of the conference was on Sunday when a small group of around 25 people visited Monte Rossa winery. Emanuele Rabotti, the MD of the winery, degorged a 1990 Cabochon. I had the chance to make a video of it. A total of 4 bottles were opened, which, due to the high pressure inside the bottle (around 5 atmosphears) was in the water, making it a cleaner opening. And the wine showed very well, still fresh and vibrant!
During the harvest, all those that make a living out of wine are always more excited. Time also moves faster and few hours are left to spend with the family. But harvest is special, so much, that we want to make sure that those who visit the winery or that follow us on-line can have a nice experience and feel at least part of what we feel.
The Portuguese television TVI has been giving to their viewers an inside of what goes on in the Portuguese wine regions durinng harvest. The name of the program is Estrada Nacional (National Road), in which Paulo Bastos and Miguel Bretiano (nice people BTW) are the reporters. They came over when visited the Douro valley and so we were very happy to share with them how we use social media to promote our wines. Take a look at the video.
I would like to give you an update about what is going in the Douro valley. The weather has been pretty good, clear and with plenty of sunshine, meaning that the grapes are very healthy and clean. We are now finishing harvest in the vineyards around the winery. Today it rained a bit, for the first time in more than three weeks, but nothing really serious. We estimate that around 35.000 kg are left in our vines, ready for picking.
In terms of quantity, we faced a strong drop of around 25% in the total volume of Port Wine being produced. The good news is that the grapes are in great conditions, rising the expectation of a great harvest. 2011, a vintage to put on the list. But we talk again in 10 years.
A note about the photo. One of these Saturdays, we were opening a fermentation tank to make Port. On the bottom of the tank there is a kind of stopper, 1metre wide, through which all skins are removed. Guess what, I opened too much the stopper and had a full-body wine shower. Do not see this as a free peeling, but actually as a very expensive mistake, in which we lost some hundreds liters of wine.
We finished the harvest this week-end in our third Quinta which is by the riverside. After Mós and Alegria, Quinta Vale d’Agodinho was the last we harvested. So far, the production is being lower that in the last years, which is in line with the reduction of around 25% in the beneficio system for 2011. The rainfall we had two weeks ago did dont lead to a reduction in the sugar of the grapes. Actually, we are recording higher values than last year, which will mean that lower volumes of brandy will be necessary to fortify our musts (as more sugar of the grapes will be fermented and transformed into alcohol).
Some of our readers have been asking how is quality of 2011 Ports and wines looking like. No clue… nice colors, but not too dark, nice flavors but not surprisingly intense, rich but not overwhelming. Well, maybe we can say that we have balanced musts that need time to show something. And time we have, a lot!