Sogevinus spells out still wine potential - Interview

a row of four wine bottles

Earlier this month, Drinks Retailing caught up with Sogevinus CEO Sergio Marly Caminal and international business manager João Tamagnini Belo at Prowein. The company’s flagship Kopke port is the main focus for the producer, with a 50-year-old Tawny and 50-year-old White Port being unveiled at the show. But elsewhere, Sogevinus has big plans for tourism and still wine

“I think we have great potential for our still wines, there’s a lot of room to grow,” says CEO Sergio Marly Caminal.

At the moment, port accounts for around 85% of the company’s wine and port sales and Kopke remains a big focus for the UK market. But Caminal also sees opportunities for the company’s still wines.

“Basically, we use only local varieties,” says Caminal of the still wines portfolio, and he explains that work has taken place on the branding to differentiate the offer from port.

“Before, we had a wine called Kopke, but now the trend is to associate brands with terroir, so we changed to São Luiz. It was a bit confusing having a port brand and a still wine brand with the same name.” 

Quinta São Luiz is the company’s winery in the Cima Corgo sub-region of the Douro valley. It produces Kopke port as well as São Luiz still wines.  

“The wine still has an endorsement by Kopke, because it gives a certain credibility to the brand,” adds the CEO. “This was launched a year ago and we are still developing. We have a full range from standard to more premium wines across white, rosé and red. It’s working very well in Portugal and now we want to develop it elsewhere.”

International business manager João Tamagnini Belo looks after the UK market, and he says the company’s partners in the country have reacted well to the still wine’s rebranding and the logic behind it.

The pair also mention Quinta Boavista, which they say has “very premium” brands. Belo explains that Boavista “is a property that producers only still wines and no ports”.

“So, it’s also more congruent - and not a port producer saying, ‘oh yeah, we do still wines’,” he says.  

In terms of ambitions for the still wine business, Belo says he would “love to see São Luiz as a top ten choice in any specialist wine shop under European wines. That would be huge”.

“We really have to sell our story to our partners and to specialists so that when they talk about Portugal, they think São Luiz,” he says. “We need them to try the product and see the scores we’re getting to show them the quality we have.”

Belo goes on to say Sogevinus has redefined the profile of its classic wine range.

“We’ve moved away from what once was the perception of Douro – very heavy, very tannic, very hot,” he says. “And we’re making fresher more elegant reds and whites and people are getting that.  Especially for the classic range, which is around £12.

“We’ve moved away from sort of classic Douro wine production to a much more contemporary, fresher style.”

Though that’s not to say the company has stepped away from that big Douro style elsewhere.

“On the super-premium wines, you have that unique sense of terroir, but people understand them at that level,” adds Belo. “But with the classics, we’ve made them more simple, in a good way.”

Elsewhere, Caminal says the company is ramping up its tourism offer.

“We’re investing in enotourism. In São Luiz, where Kopke is produced, we are opening a guesthouse for 11 people later this summer. We’re also constructing a 151-room hotel in Vila Nova de Gaia, which will be completed by the end of 2023,” he says.  

According to the CEO, tourism contributes roughly 20% of net sales. Pre-Covid, visitor numbers reached as many as 400,000 people across the company’s two visitor centres. 

The new fortified fans - Sherry and Port analysis

Related articles: