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Enoforum Wines of the Alentejo

When Enoforum Wines, a Portuguese export company, was first explained to me, its structure seemed very confusing. The reason it did is because living and working in California for the last 17+ years, I’ve watched the wine business here all but cannibalize itself with massive amounts of individual brands. Not only are the big dogs getting bigger, by gobbling up any established winery that just can’t financially go on in its present state; but also on the lower end of the spectrum, mom and pop sized wineries are popping up everywhere… And, they just keep on coming. Some produce as few as less than 100 cases a year, but create another option.

Anyone with a passion, from doctors, lawyers, and clergy, to real estate brokers, former foodies, and electronics engineers, all want into this business. I even had one newcomer tell me – straight up – “I’m in it for my ego.” Of course, when I called him on that statement later, he had a raging fit; but the fact remains, all he really wanted was to have a bottle of his wine when he showed up at a restaurant. For him, that meant he was considered as having “arrived” in the wine business, even if that meant he produced less than 500 cases of wine a year… Like so many others.

This is not everyone’s story, mind you; but, there is a percentage coming from other business sectors, where they were the big dogs on the block, and they now just can’t bear to be on the bottom of an established industry. They don’t, nay… they just can’t take that cautious route back to the top in another market sector. So, they buy a few barrels of wine, and put their names on the bottle. This is called capitalism; and it works until they run out of capital, while they lived the dream.

This has given rise to the statement that in the US, “It takes a large fortune to make a small fortune, in the wine business.”

So… when Enoforum Wines first became my client, and I read the company’s prospectus of their being a joint stock company of six businesses, I felt like a stranger in a strange land. I couldn’t even begin to fathom how that would work… Six firms came together as share holders, and are now producing individually new labels as export wine. Because of my US wine company experiences, I just didn’t get how or why this could be functioning. It was like having all the puzzle pieces, but not having any of the edges, so I couldn’t even begin to put it all together. The big picture was completely escaping me.

Traveling to Portugal, however, brought it all home… so to speak.

Additionally, in my quest for an importer for Enoforum Wines, I’ve been finding that it was just my not being exposed to the entire world of wine, that had me not comprehending. Those within import companies totally understand what Enoforum is all about, as I now do.

As I’ve written earlier, to understand Portuguese wines, one first first understands its people. In that statement is also hidden that “people” also refers to their history. From the beginning of the their recorded history, dating back to 1,000 B.C., many others have dominated the idyllic land that is today called Portugal. This country is a natural connection to not only the Mediterranean Sea and its bounty, but it’s also the gateway to the Atlantic Ocean. Also, consider that when the Romans arrived they found the land rich with minerals, which included gold and silver. With that many treasures, every invader (and there were many) seemed to have had a hand in shaping its history, and consequently its people and how they view the world and themselves. The Revolution of 1974 began a period of time – to this day – that has established a time of freedom for its people. This new way of being governed is now allowing the Portuguese to experiment with being more individualistic. It’s the morphing that’s fascinating to me; because in changing, it’s not “all or nothing.” Consequently, it’s evolving in sophisticated ways that is going to be completely to its advantage as imported brands with rich historical ties.

Portugal’s history is extremely complicated. You can begin to sort it out, on this Portugal: History site. Meanwhile, my brief explanation above is there to give you just a snapshot into the workings of Portugal’s people. It also gives you background into how they think in terms of what will be good collectively, versus the United States way of thinking, where it’s every man for himself.

In California alone, we have over 6,000 brands from which to choose. Then, add all the other 49 states in the US, each having its own wine productions, and there’s the massive flood for US consumers to begin their wine journey… Now, add all the imports from worldwide wine producing countries. Is it any wonder that wine is considered so complicated?

In walked simplicity for me, once I got past my own confusion.

In the Alentejo wine industry, these companies have banded together for the sake of this region. This thinking produces fewer bottles of wine under separate labels coming from Alentejo… And, at a time when these wines are just being introduced to the rest of the world, I believe this is brilliant marketing.

Less is more, in this case. More always adds to the confusion of anything. With fewer labels from which to choose, it’s going right to the heart of simplified education and enjoyment.

This is what Enoforum Wines is doing as an Alentejo wine export company. It’s interesting to me that my colleague Delfim Costa, Enoforum’s general manager, is having huge success all over the world opening up new markets in collective societies, because this kind of thinking ~ what is good for the group, versus what it good for a myriad of individuals ~ is quickly grasped as a cultural way of thinking, and doesn’t take international travel to begin to understand the concept.

While being in the United States is the supreme prize, Enoforum has somewhat easily slipped into the following countries: Holland, Poland, Brazil, Russian Federation, Canada, China, Angola, and Belarus.

So, from their material that first had me wondering, I’ve broken it down. This, I know, is reducing it to the lowest common denominator, and will have you trying to imagine why I was so confused. I’ll spare you those details in between not getting it and getting it. The following will serve you better.

STRUCTURE: The six main Wineries of Alentejo that have joined to create Enoforum wines.

  1. Adega de Borba (I’ve visited and written about Adega de Borba)
  2. Adega de Portalegre
  3. Adega de Redondo (I’ve visited and written about Adega de Redondo)
  4. Adega de Vidigueira
  5. CARMIM – Adega de Reguengos de Monsaraz (I’ve visited and written about Carmim)
  6. Cooperativa de Granja

These companies work a combined 29,653 acres of vineyards, producing over 14,529,463 gallons of red and white wines. This represents 70 percent of Alentejo’s wine production. With more than 50 years of reliable experience, producing wines that are known for quality, Enoforum has achieved a level of prestige that now allows these six partners to attain a leadership position for the Portuguese domestic market from the Alentejo.

These wineries are each a cooperative of local grape growers. They bring their harvests to the winery, once grapes have been picked. Many of these adegas do not allow their growers to have their own brands, so there’s no conflict of interest. Grape growers are incentivized to grow their best possible crops, because when they arrive at the winery, they will be paid by grape quality. The wineries then process the fruit, and store it by quality category, allowing for different price point categories. Jose Fonseca, the chosen winemaker for taking this wine and putting it into different Enoforum branded wines, working in concert with each company’s winemaker, determines the final products that will be under Enoforum’s labels.

Enoforum’s wines that are ready to be exported to the United States are the following:

  1. ALÉM
  2. ALENTE
  3. FINISTERRA

Prices are very competitive, and the quality of each wine for it’s price point is superb.

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