In June, Lucy Britner travelled to Alentejo and Dão in Portugal to talk to Luisa Amorim about her wineries, brand Portugal and the next generation of drinkers
Amorim may be famous for cork, but the company also makes the stuff inside the bottles. Fourth generation family member Luisa Amorim manages the wine business, which includes Douro winery Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo. In 2018, the group invested in the Dão region with Quinta da Taboadella, which produces around 250,000 bottles of wine a year.
Luisa also has her own estate in Alentejo – Herdade Aldeia de Cima, which is a biodiverse haven for bees, donkeys, sheep, cork trees and, of course, vines. The 3,000ha farm has just 22ha of vineyard, and the idea is to establish an ecosystem that requires minimum human intervention.
She’s passionate not only about the sustainability of the estate, but also the sustainability of the wine industry, and of brand Portugal.
“My father was an important businessman,” says Luisa. “Maybe I get that experience from him. You have to pay the accounts, you have to balance the books.
“But it’s impossible, I think, to be in the wine industry, especially the high-end, without emotion and passion. You have to think that what you do will reflect in 10- or 20-years’ time. It’s more than just short-term management.”
Luisa is very proudly Portuguese and as she turns 50, she says she wants to raise the profile of the country and its wine for the next generation.
“At the same time, I think there is a line of tradition and heritage we should maintain,” she adds, “especially with the branding, the region, the philosophy.”
She’s also pragmatic. She says keeping an open mind is important in this business because “the climate changes, the people change, the market changes”.
And how does she keep an open mind? Well, she accepts that she can always learn more. She encourages visiting other wineries and tasting other wines, as well as lots of travel.
“One of the things I inherited from my father is a love of travel. When I travel, to a winery, to a city, wherever, I try to pay attention to what people are doing, the next generation.
“You cannot just make wines for yourself. It’s not enough for me to enjoy my wines – there’s no reason for the wine industry if you cannot share those wines.”
She says it makes her happy when people recognise the value and quality of a wine.
“I always think it’s a privilege to have our wine in a restaurant or a wine shop, because it’s difficult,” she adds.
Luisa’s travels have made her an astute observer of consumer trends. She tells me that gastronomy has had a big impact on the wine industry, as people travel to different places and experience different food.
“People want new experiences in gastronomy, and they tend to adapt the wine to the gastronomy, not the other way around.”
She says she is seeing a trend towards more whites and rosés as well as wines with less alcohol, while “consumers want to grow their knowledge and then the quality of the wine they drink”.
She has observed that people are not so attached to one brand for long periods of time, rather they favour new discoveries. So, even if you produce good wine, you can’t take consumer interest in it for granted.
“In 20 years, the next generation will probably eat, drink and live differently from you. I’m not saying you have to change every day, but you have to listen, listen, listen.
“I don’t believe in marketing studies, they will always tell you what you already know. As a niche market player, you don’t have to be everywhere, you have to fit into the segment that you believe in, but you still have to be open to what people feel, what they want and how they spend their free moments – because at the end of the day, drinking wine is part of a consumer’s free moments.”