An anonymous South American investor has bought majority control of Quinta da Romaneira, one of the largest wine estates in Portugal's Douro Valley. IDI, a French private equity firm that bought a majority share in 2010 for $14.4 million, sold to the unnamed investor Dec. 31 for $28 million. Other minority owners also sold their shares. Christian Seely, a minority investor, has increased his stake and will remain managing director of the property. António Agrellos will stay as technical director.
Sources say this is the new owner's first venture into the wine business, but that he or she is a lover of Douro Valley wines. Most important, according to Seely, this person has a long-term view on the wine business.
The story of Quinta da Romaneira goes back several centuries. Located on the right bank of the Douro river, close to Roncão, this quinta integrated 14 other properties over the years to arrive at a total area of 988 acres, with 1.25 miles of riverfront. Wines from Quinta da Romaneira from the 1861 and 1863 vintages showed up in a Christie’s auction in 1872.
Romaneira changed hands several times during the past two centuries, usually between Oporto-based families, and its reputation declined. That was slowed down by the Vinagre family, then reversed in 2004, when a group of 12 investors, led by Seely, purchased the quinta. Seely is longtime managing director of wine properties for French insurance giant AXA Millésimes, which owns multiple Bordeaux estates, including Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, as well as a property in Hungary and Quinta do Noval in the Douro. Together with Agrellos, the chief winemaker of Quinta do Noval, Seely proposed the acquisition of Romaneira to AXA's board, but they were not interested, so he gathered investors to close the deal.
Their first job was to replant portions of the vineyards and rebuild some of the old terraces. In two years, 75 acres were recovered, while 103 were planted new. Today, the total land planted with active vineyards is 215 acres. A new cellar was also built, half-buried underground. Today, 80 percent of the winery's production is table wine and 20 percent is Port. The total production reaches to 12,500 cases yearly, for a total annual revenue of about $1.33 million.