Continuing from yesterday’s Part I story of Adele Capela of Value Vines, with her colleagues Carl Camasta and Tony Verdoni, exploring Portugal as a new importer for Enoforum Wines.

This blog posting is also dedicated to Sally (as it was yesterday), who asked last week, “After talking with everyone I really want to import wine from Europe… how do I get started?

To all the Sallys out there… this is why I recommended that you first begin working with someone who knows the ropes; because after a trip like this, you’ve still got to return to reality and hit the streets running.

I left off with questions to Adele that involved all that she and her colleagues experienced at Adega Coop de Borba.

[Q]  Adega Coop de Borba sounds like a complete day. What came next?

[A]  We left the Borba facility, and drove to Estremoz for a lunch of regional specialties and wines at a restaurant called A Cadeia (the Jail). Following lunch, we briefly toured Estremoz, and then drove to Évora and checked into our hotel, Mar D’ar Aqueduto.

[Left to right: Delfim Costa, Adele Tolli-Capela, Rui Velardas, Luís Ribeiro, José Fonseca]

The following day, we visited Carmim, in Reguengos, Portugal; the largest contributor to Enoforum’s wines. Delfim Costa, Enoforum’s master winemaker José Fonseca, and Luís Ribeiro (production manager and winemaker) were our guides. At Carmim, we were met by the resident winemaker Rui Velardas. Carmim was founded in 1971, and has 600 members with 3,600 hectares under cultivation. The average yield per hectare is less than 6,000 kilos of grapes.

[Q]  Tell me about Carmim…

[A]  Like Borba, Carmim receives many different varieties, and also produces between 1 and 2 million kilos of olives for olive oil. The olive harvest starts right after the grape harvest is complete. Because of its size, Carmim also receives and sells a quantity of both wool and cereal products.

[Q]  And the winery?

[A]  Once again we were able to view an extremely efficient bottling line, which also includes Bag-in-Box production. At the present time they can handle 300 5-liter boxes per hour. We also toured a lab exclusively focused on bottling and trouble shooting for this area.

While already impressively huge, Carmim is always remodeling and growing. They’re currently building a new and larger facility for storing bottled wine.

They are also changing the fermentation area and working on a new bottling line, modernization of the bag-in-box line, and a new labeling system. Altogether this year they will be making an investment of “a few million Euros.” The goal is to never stop investing and to work constantly on quality control, as well.

At the present time, by using two bottling lines they can turn out 20,000 bottles in an hour. Each area is bio protected and virtually free from contaminants.

[Q]  Since harvest was under way, did you get to see it in action?

[A]  Yes, and we were also shown fermentation areas, as well as oak barrel aging, and the primarily the uses of American, French, Portuguese, and some Hungarian Oak.

[Q]  With all of this exploration, wine tasting must have played a major role, too?

[A]  Certainly… The Alente Red, which Value Vines represents, spends 3-4 months in Oak, the Alente Reserva, up to 9 months. These wines plus all of the Enoforum offerings were sampled in the lovely and picturesque tasting room, located in the historic wine plant. Alem, which is a blend of Syrah and Aragonez was very well appreciated and several of the tasters stated that they believe it to have an “international taste.”

[Q]  So, you left Carmim, and drove to Évora, the city where Enoforum Wines (your host) is located. I love how charming Évora is. How did you enjoy it?

[A]  Very much. We toured Enoforum’s offices, where Delfim Costa then left us. He was headed to Brazil, where their wines are also imported. Enoforum’s Luís and Isabel Ramos (logistics and finance director) entertained us at a dinner in Évora that evening.

[Q]  The next day took you to the town of Redondo, where you visited Adega Cooperativa de Redondo?

[A]  Yes. Upon arriving, we were met by export manager Carlos Queimada. Redondo is the third largest shareholder in Enoforum, and was started in 1956. There are currently 215 farmers selling their grapes to Redondo and approximately 2,050 hectares under cultivation.

Since harvest was in process, we were able to see the line of farmers arriving with their truckloads of grapes. Redondo processes approximately 1-million kilos of grapes per day or an estimated total of 15 million kilos during the harvest.

[CONVERSION: 1 kilo = 2.204622622 pounds x 1,000,000 kilos = 2,204,622.6 pounds divided by 2,000 (a ton) = 1,102 tons]

As were present at the other wineries, we once again saw the white “balloon” tanks, which seem characteristic of the Alentejo. We learned that each balloon tank holds 7-million liters of wine in a temperature controlled, fiberglass lined environment.

[Q]  How about the winery; did you have a tour?

[A]  We were escorted through the collection, extraction, and fermentation areas. We learned that Redondo makes use of a computer controlled, cold fermentation process, and uses French barriques for secondary fermentation and aging. All barrels are used only twice and Redondo. They also produce a grappa like Liqueur called “Licoroso Velho,” made from wine by-products, stems, and must.

[Q]  Did you also find Redondo to be as state-of-the-art as the other wineries you visited.

[A]  The overall facility was extremely clean and well organized and we were taken through the bottling area and learned that bottles are analyzed three times a day and samples of all batches are kept for up to two years as part of the quality control process. Redondo can bottle up to 12,000 bottles in an hour.

[Q]  Did you get to meet anyone else during this stay?

[A]  Yes… Following our time at the winery we were able to visit the Quinta of the president of Redondo’s cooperative organization, Mr. Luis Morais Cardoso. Mr. Cardoso has 60 hectares under cultivation and plants mostly Aragonez ( Tempranillo) and Cabernet grapes. As with the other growers, he employs drip irrigation and a mechanical harvester. He gave us a tour of his property, which was in the process of harvest, and we learned he also plants some Trincadeira and Castelao.

The group then had lunch in Monsaraz and returned to Lisbon. In retrospect the trip was a wonderful learning experience and a totally enjoyable time for us all.

And so, boys and girls, this wraps up what happens when an importer visits a new country and becomes involved with new brands. They visit wineries and vineyards, meet and greet people key players, learn the local cultures, enjoy foods and wines, and returned with a new spirit that will allow them to translate that enthusiasm into case sales.

It’s a pretty fabulous way to be spending one’s day… And will all be remembered in those moments of detailed minutia.

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