An ‘interesting phase’ ahead for Romaneira18th January, 2013 by Gabriel Stone
Christian Seely has offered assurance that the sale of a majority stake in Quinta da Romaneira heralds a period of long-term stability and development for the Douro estate.
Speaking to the drinks business about the transaction, which saw investment group IDI and other shareholders sell their interest to an anonymous, non-Portuguese private buyer, co-owner Seely described the move as “a fantastic development.”
Having increased his own personal stake in the property, Seely is now the only other shareholder in Romaneira, the 400 hectare luxury hotel and wine estate which he originally became involved with as part of a 12-strong investor group in 2004. As managing director of AXA Millésimes, Seely also oversees another Douro property, Quinta do Noval.
Following a “restructure” three years ago, which saw Romaneira’s ownership reduced to six investors, Seely explained the advantages of the new, smaller management set-up.
“The principle partners before were a private equity company, who were wonderful, but they always have a short time horizon on how long they want to hold their investment,” he remarked.
In contrast, Seely described the property’s new majority stakeholder as an individual who “loves the place and loves the wines. He’s in it for the long term, as I am. It gives Romaneira the stability to carry on developing.”
Stressing his own commitment to the property, Seely said: “I will be staying for life, I hope, as a part owner of Romaneira. I’m still there, I’m still running it and that will remain the same.”
The deal, which was concluded at the end of 2012, comes at the start of what Seely described as “an interesting phase at Romaneira.”
Having inherited just 36ha of vineyard in 2004, Seely has since overseen an increase in these plantings by a further 50ha. “It’s all on grade A terroir with Touriga Nacional and Touriga Francesa, the noble varieties,” he outlined, adding: “All that is now coming on-stream.”
Emphasising “the accent at Romaneira is on high quality, Douro red wines,” Seely confirmed that the current 80% balance of table wines to 20% Port would remain at a similar level as production grows.
Currently distributed by Liberty Wines in the UK, Romaneira has established a presence in the on-trade, but, admitted Seely: “We haven’t yet hit the volumes we would like.”
However, he attributed this relatively low distribution in comparison to some of the Douro’s major producers to supply issues, remarking: “Up until a few years ago we didn’t actually have very much wine to sell.”
Despite this issue, the company is showing signs of growth, with sales now going “extremely well” in Brazil, according to Seely, who also pointed to strong performances in Portugal and Canada, with the company “just starting in the US.”
Overall, he reported: “Sales have tripled in the last few years,” describing himself as “bullish” about the estate’s future.