Portugal's power couples
Decanter|August 2021
Meet three winemaking couples who have put their wines on the map by working together, both as a lockdown necessity and a permanent partnership
SARAH AHMED

For many couples, living and working in the same space 24/7 during lockdown has been akin to a social experiment – often with less-than-successful results, judging by the spike in divorce rates over the past year. How does one navigate the pitfalls so that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?

Portuguese wine producers are well versed in the art of blending. For three egalitarian ‘power couples’, the road map was already drawn. Turbocharged communication skills and pooled resources have fuelled the success of millennial labels from Sandra Tavares da Silva and Jorge Serôdio Borges (Wine & Soul), Filipa Pato and William Wouters (Pato & Wouters) and Catarina Vieira and Pedro Ribeiro (Herdade do Rocim).

While each couple have arrived at their own blend of roles and rules, there are common threads. For all of them, work is life. ‘It's impossible to have boundaries,’ admits Tavares da Silva. Shared values, bonds of trust and being curious have been cornerstones of success – whether they’re working together or apart. ‘New projects and new opportunities open your mind,’ observes Ribeiro. He has an independent label, Bojador, while Tavares da Silva and Serôdio Borges also have side projects (Crochet and MOB, respectively) with winemaker friends.

Learning together – constantly pushing, improving and supporting one another – has catapulted these 21st-century progressives to the forefront of Portugal’s contemporary wine scene. Here, the sum has been greater than the parts.

NORTH PORTUGAL: DOURO

Sandra Tavares da Silva & Jorge Serôdio Borges

Wine & Soul

Not only were Sandra Tavares da Silva (an intern at Quinta Vale D Maria) and Jorge Serôdio Borges (employed by Niepoort) new to winemaking, but they were at the vanguard of modern Douro winemaking when they met in 1999. Serôdio Borges was stunned by the intern-cum-model from Lisbon who loved this rugged, remote region of his birth. Bonding over their shared conviction on the Douro’s potential, they talked about making a wine together from day one.

It was a heady time, explains Tavares da Silva, tasting widely with other young winemakers from around the world. Serôdio Borges recalls: ‘We realised Douro wines didn’t have the same finesse, fruit or balance as Italian or French wines.’ It motivated them to ‘go to another level, keeping a classic style, but with some modernity’, explains Tavares da Silva.

Marrying in 2001, the couple’s dream came true that year when they bought an old cellar. Next, they found the perfect site to realise their vision: Pintas vineyard, in Vale de Mendiz. Serôdio Borges negotiated a loan, enabling the cash-strapped pair to acquire Pintas in 2003.

Everyone said they were crazy and that it was too expensive, remembers Tavares da Silva, the marketeer, but the couple were unafraid to position their brooding, richly fruited, powerful red among the Douro’s best. A pact to reinvest profits and continue making wine for others helped them pursue other goals, including making Pintas Vintage Port.

Since 2004, several elevated, old-vine parcels in Porrais have produced Wine & Soul Guru, an exceptional Douro white, recently joined by Guru NM, an innovative non-vintage iteration. In 2009, Wine & Soul inherited Quinta da Manoella, from which it produces an elegant red and a tawny Port.

Since 2015 and 2019 respectively, Tavares da Silva and Serôdio Borges have focused on Wine & Soul, now with 15 staff. There have been no major disagreements, they say. Rather, says Tavares da Silva: ‘We have grown together; you cannot learn and improve without being open and humble.’ They have a big support network, divide up markets and travel one at a time, while the other looks after their three children and household.

Making wine hand-in-glove, Serôdio Borges believes that ‘different perspectives and sensitivities help us achieve another level’. As for the business of wine, Tavares da Silva describes her husband as more adventurous.

Serôdio Borges is quick to credit ‘the ground under my feet’ – the bedrock of mutual trust and respect without which, he admits: ‘I could not have accepted the challenges and investment… It has been very important to have the same philosophy, goals and passion.’

Wine & Soul, Guru NM, Douro NV 97

£67.75 Corney & Barrow

A tremendously powerful, profound blend of select barrels of Guru, from 2010, 2013 and 2015. Well structured, mineral and flinty with a citrus core like this producer’s vintage wines. Unfurling layers of crushed stone, lanolin, snuffed candle and a touch of raw honeycomb torrefaction and vanilla bean to its spicy grapefruit and lime peel centre. Just 1,599 bottles were made. Drink 2021-2026 Alcohol 12%

Wine & Soul, Guru, Douro 2019 96

£31.75 Corney & Barrow

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