Companhia Das Lezirias
Portugal is quickly emerging as a world-class wine destination
Portugal’s wine history is well documented, starting with the First Century BC, when Roman Legions swept over the eastern side of the Iberian Peninsula. The Romans even gave the country its current name that was derived from the Latin word portus or port as we know it today.
Wines have been an important aspect in Portugal for the next two thousand years and have survived a number of conquerors. Even the 7th Century Moorish occupation that allowed no wines or winemaking whatsoever due to the Koran’s strict forbidding of alcohol could not stop Portugal’s determination and fervor for wines.
Centuries later, a permanent union in the form of a treaty with England allowed Portugal to have preference over French wines, an occurrence that secured Portugal’s place in world wine history. The country’s first commercial wines were called Ports, or wines fortified with brandy, and were made around the northern city of Oporto. By the early 1500’s, millions of cases were shipped to England and Holland and Port had become the choice of gentlemen and royal courts of Europe.
While port remained Portugal’s leading export wine, a number of excellent Portuguese reds were also made. Few made it out of the country as little marketing was paid to the export of these unknown wines. Twenty to thirty years ago, a number of wineries (some were startups that were fueled by the success of other startup wineries in neighboring countries) broke with traditional Portuguese wine industry thinking and began the serious exportation of their wines.
What happened since then is amazing and a tribute to the merit of the entire Portuguese wine industry. Entered into international competitions (particularly the difficult British competitions), a number of Portuguese reds (and even a few whites) have placed high among the world’s finest wines. Even the exalted French reds have succumbed to the quality and finesse of a number of Portuguese reds in highest level competition. Whenever price/value is considered, the range of Portuguese reds proves extremely hard to best.
As mentioned above, a new wave of small wineries has emerged and this fact has caused Portugal’s older, established wineries to create some new wines to compete with the newcomers. The overall movement is a boon to both Portugal and the entire wine world. These new wines are rare examples of extraordinary attention to detail and near-flawless winemaking.
It is our pleasure to introduce some of these wines through our International Series Wine Club program.
Three unique Winemakers
Companhia das Lezirias, Frederico Falcao, winemaker -
Frederico Falcao is typical of the new wave winemakers of Portugal. A post graduate in enology, he has worked in the wine industry since 1995, and has served in various capacities with several top Portuguese wineries. He also served as a consultant to several more. Falcao interned at Taylor Wines in Clare Valley, Australia in 1998, and is the author of a book called Wines and the Oak. He joined Companhia das Lezirias in 2001 and also oversees the company’s large olive oil production.
Quinta da Veiga da Casa da Capela, Joao Silva e Sousa, winemaker -
Silva e Sousa’s resume is a virtual who’s who in the Portuguese wine industry. He was formerly the technical director for the massive Sogrape Vineyards (their wonderful Mateus rose introduced millions worldwide to the joys of wine drinking) and later was winemaker for the esteemed port house Offley. In 1999 he created his own wine company, VDS, which he sold in 2005. Silva e Sousa is considered one of Portugal’s preeminent winemakers. Silva e Sousa also serves as a continuing consultant for a number of wineries and port companies. He is also building a new wine company in the Douro that should be completed later this year.
Herdade do Rocim, Antonio Ventura, winemaker -
The Herdade do Rocim utilizes a highly structured team of company executives to produce its wines. Most of the coordination is performed by agricultural engineer Catarina Vieira. She also employs two significant wine consultants, Professor Rogerio de Castro from the Instituto Superior de Agronomia (Portugal’s version of UC Davis). Assistant Professor Amandio Cruz also consults from the same school located in the heart of Lisbon. Antonio Ventura is a 25-year veteran of the Portuguese wine industry who handles the day-to-day winemaking chores for the company and is considered a renowned specialist in the Portuguese winemaking profession.
Three Featured Wineries
Adega de Quinta da Veiga---Douro
The winery that produces the exceptional Casas das Mouras Reserva is a small facility that farms part the famous Quinta de Veiga Vineyard. The vineyard itself is completely terraced and comprises about 20 hectares located on the right bank of the Douro and traces its history back to the Eighteenth Century. For marketing regions, many of the small farm s that compromise the Quinta da Veiga choose to market their wines under universal labels, thereby forming a formidable image and entity. This ideology is repeated throughout Portugal whenever a number of small farms are involved.
Olho de Mocho Reserva---Alentejo
The Herdade (homestead) do Rocim estate is owned by Terralis, Lda, a Portuguese company that has its roots in farming and vineyards, and specializes in agricultural machinery. Purchased in 2000, the Herdade do Rocim is a 148 acre vineyard with an accompanying winery that has been completely modernized and made state-of-the-art, a project that took over six years to complete. Terralis, Lda is itself a part of a larger company, Movicortes, S.A., a multi-faceted business with numerous investments and interests in varying fields of endeavor. Many Portuguese wineries are owned by large companies who benefit from the esteem and exposure of their wines.
Catapereiro Escolha - Ribatejo
The Companhia das Lezirias (literally marshy land) can trace its roots back to 1836, and was once Portugal’s largest farmer of agriculture, cattle and forests. At its heyday, Lezirias’ entire holdings amounted amount to almost 45,000 acres but its holdings have steadily been reduced. Today, 320 acres are vineyards and the business has been placed in the status of a public limited company, wholly owned by public funds. The existing winery was built in 1944 but has been vastly improved since that time. A new state-of-the-art refrigeration system with a number of stainless steel vats and improved production facilities have made the Companhia das Lezirias a truly modern facility.