Portuguese wine company Esporão AS has purchased the historic Quinta do Ameal estate, in the heart of the Vinho Verde appellation. With this move, Esporão continues its strategy of expansion from its original home in the Alentejo region to more northern regions, such as Douro and Minho, home of Vinho Verde.
“[Our ambition] is to make great wines with identity and a sense of place, but also to challenge the region’s traditional status quo,” Esporão CEO João Roquette told Wine Spectator.
Quinta do Ameal is a historic property located close to Ponte de Lima, in a subregion of the Vinho Verde appellation known for the prevalence of the Loureiro grape variety. It was Quinta do Ameal, under the management of Pedro Araújo, that helped bring Loureiro into the limelight, showing the grape’s potential for great wines. Araújo farms organically and is known for high production standards and a knack for encouraging tourism.
The farming was one factor that helped spark the deal with Esporão. The company has been moving toward organic farming at all its wineries since CEO João Roquette took over in 2008.
Roquette is a former musician and son of José Roquette, who co-founded Esporão in 1973, although their family winery, Herdade do Esporão, dates back 750 years. In 2008, the company expanded to the Douro, purchasing Quinta dos Murças, and more recently entered the craft beer sector. With total annual revenues of $55 million and production of 1.3 million cases of wine, Esporão has become a major player. The company owns over 4,200 acres in several locations in Alentejo, of which 1,600 are under vine.
Quinta do Ameal, which dates to 1710, is located on the Lima river. It has a total of 75 acres, 35 of them planted to Loureiro. The range of wines is based solely on Loureiro, and includes still, sparkling and late-harvest, with a 6,000-case annual production. Revenue is approximately $500,000 per year.
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Roquette told Wine Spectator that his strategy for the years to come is to grow organically. “By 2025, we plan to be selling $2.5 million a year.” To make that happen, he is looking to acquire additional vineyards, build a new winery and hire more people. “In the last decade, a great job was done in Vinho Verde by Pedro Araújo at Ameal, but also by producers such as Anselmo Mendes and Soalheiro, proving the region’s potential to make and value world-class whites. We feel that Esporão’s investment in Ameal will also add to the acclaim and availability of great Vinho Verde.”
Pedro Araújo will remain linked to the project, though his role is yet to be defined. Anselmo Mendes, the chief winemaker of Ameal for over 20 years, will oversee this harvest, then remain on board as a consultant. José Luís Moreira da Silva, winemaker of Douro’s Quinta dos Murças, will take over day-to-day operations. Mendes expressed happiness for both the estate and the region. “[It’s] important that key players such as Esporão enter the region—it needs such an injection of energy,” he said. “This deal is a prize, and recognition for the work of the past 20 years.”