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How are Women Uniting Portugal through Wine?

The Portuguese Wine GirlsIf I say fire fighter, what gender pops into your head? Doctor? Nurse? Taxi driver? Construction worker? Beautician? Historically, many of these professions were predominately occupied by one gender, but not both.

In today’s world, there are very few professions that are solely occupied by either men or women. Unfortunately our perceptions haven’t altered. Ask a child to draw a police officer and very rarely will a woman be drawn. Same can also be said of men as nurses, hairdressers and preschool teachers.

As for winemakers, well…it’s been an all male game for a very long time, but the tide is changing, dramatically.

Here in Portugal, women have changed the vinous landscape dramatically with the likes of Filipa PatoSandra Tavares and Julia Kemper, but this is only the beginning.

Today, there is a vibrant group of women working in the Portuguese wine industry who each hail from a different region. Together, they are working as a uniting force to carry Portuguese wine around the world.

When did women start breaking through the male dominated wine industry in Portugal?

On April 25, 1974, Portugal experienced a coup, a nearly bloodless revolution that’s commonly known as the Carnation Revolution. This moment was key in the evolution of women’s rights and women’s presence in the labor market, as it democratized and opened Portugal to the rest of the world. Just a few years prior to the coup, women represented only 21% of the total economic activity. That’s minuscule! And of that 21% the most significant rates of female employment were concentrated in a very young age group (15-19 year olds) who primarily worked as unskilled laborers in traditional sectors such as: textiles, clothing, footwear and agriculture. Today, women account for approximately 49%of the labor market (Pordata data).

What have been some of the challenges for women in the Portuguese wine industry?

Although women’s access to leadership and/or senior positions in companies, particularly in the wine sector, is still lower than men’s, we prefer to look at the glass half full. Why? Because the majority of Portuguese graduates are women. This translates to more female oenologists, viticulturists, saleswomen and executives in the wine world presented with a phenomenal challenge that goes beyond gender. The challenge: how does Portugal become one of the top quality wine producing countries in the world?

Wine Girls of PortugalAre there more women getting involved that don’t necessarily come from a wine family? And if yes, what’s being done to attract them, and why are they important?

Admittedly, there are women in the group that come from Portuguese families that have been directly involved in the wine world for ages such as Francisca van Zeller of Quinta Vale D. Maria; Maria Manuel Maia of Poças Júnior; Mafalda Guedes of Sogrape; and Rita Cardoso Pinto of Quinta do Pinto. These are families who have worked hard to preserve traditional methods, inspire innovation, support sustainability and beyond all else, nurture the community. However, the profile D’Uva paints a much broader picture of the Portuguese wine landscape. Luísa Amorim, from Quinta Nova Nossa Senhora do Carmo (Douro), didn’t enter the wine world until much later in life, having worked in hotels, marketing and management previously. Rita Nabeiro dedicated much of her professional career to her family business, Delta Café, before it founded the Alentejo winery Adega Mayor in 2007. Catarina Vieira, of Herdade do Rocim, comes from who dedicated their entire lives to agricultural machinery and cultural activities (owners of a bookstore and a newspaper). Rita Fino’s family may have been the founders of Monte da Penha in the Alentejo, but for several decades, she was an entrepreneur in textiles.

In today’s world, it’s irrelevant if you come from a large, established wine family. What matters is your raw determination, passion and knowledge to bring a wine to new heights. It’s our hope, that D’Uva is doing just this.

Are there differences in how Portuguese female winemakers make wine, whether that be in style, type or viticulture?

I think a better question might be, is it gender or a new generation of winemakers who are thinking outside the box? For us, the shift towards better quality and a greater wealth of styles is a direct result of better training, vision and education over the past few decades. Consequently, the women entering the market are not only directly affected by their training and previous work experience, but also their unique way of seeing the world. For us, it’s not about men versus women, it’s about individuals of all genders, ages and cultures who are creating phenomenal wines.

Wine Girls of PortugalOther than being professional and female, is there something else that ties them together for this project?

D’Uva not only includes female oenologists, but also sales professionals, marketers and management within the wine sector. What ties them together is not their title, but the outstanding quality of their product. And maybe more importantly, it’s their undying passion and love of wine – Portuguese in particular – that makes them fantastic ambassadors for Portugal.

What’s your mission with D’Uva?

To not only promote Portuguese wines throughout both Portugal and the world, but to set a standard of excellence in the market, with a proven record of quality and international recognition.

In terms of the wine itself, what wine style or grape variety(ies) best capture each of the D’Uva girl’s personalities.

If you’re interested in visiting any of these fantastic producers, or doing grand vinous tour of Portugal, contact us! Portugal is brimming with dynamic women who would love nothing more than to share their winemaking secrets with you. Let us help!


Gabriella Opaz

Catavino, where we build custom tours in Portugal and tours in Spain. Contact us if you are interested in learning more! We'd love to make your dream trip a reality.

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