PepsiCo board member Alberto Weisser has purchased a historic wine property in Portugal's rapidly evolving Alentejo region. Weisser bought Herdade de Coelheiros, known for its Tapada de Coelheiros wines, from the heirs of Joaquim Silveira. The price was not disclosed. The deal includes a 2,000-acre property, including 120 acres of vines, and a wine brand that produces more than 28,000 cases a year.
Born in Brazil, Weisser, 60, served as CEO of Bunge Ltd., a $60 billion global agriculture and food company, from 1999 to 2013. During those years he developed strong professional relations in Portugal, and got to know the country and its wines, including the ones from Alentejo. Weisser says he recently became interested in investing in a wine estate, as well as a property managed in a sustainable fashion.
Located in the county of Arraiolos, in the heart of Alentejo, Herdade de Coelheiros is a historic property—2,000 acres that once belonged to the Count of Azaruja. "Tapada" is the Portuguese word for a closed parcel, though this one, like many Alentejo vineyards, is a big one—120 acres.
A quarter of the Herdade was used for grain and cattle when Joaquim Silveira acquired it in 1978. Silveira left the remaining 1500 acres, a traditional cork tree forest in which black pigs are raised and cork is produced, untouched. On the other 500 acres, Silveira decided to grow walnut trees and wine grapes. In 1981, vines were planted, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, at the time rather revolutionary in the region. The first wines were released in 1991.
Today, the winery produces 25,000 cases annually, as well as another 50,000 liters sold in bag-in-box packaging. One-third of production is exported, and annual sales are $1 million. The farm also sells walnuts and cork bark, and there is an experimental herd of Île-de-France sheep.
Weisser plans to plant another 24 acres of vines. He said that the current staff will remain on board, including manager José Pedro Simões and longtime head winemaker António Saramago.
In a statement, Weisser, who lives in New York and serves on the board of PepsiCo Inc, said that he and his wife are, "moving to Alentejo, well aware of the responsibility to be continuing this meaningful project, hoping my lifelong experience will contribute to the continued evolution of Alentejo wines and their visibility."