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Taylor’s Port buys multi-regional Portuguese wine producer

Owner of Taylor’s Port, The Fladgate Partnership, has made its first move into table wine production with the acquisition of a top-end Portuguese business with almost 200 hectares of vineyards spread over three regions, db can exclusively reveal.

Principal Cabernet-Merlot blend from Bairrada is only released after cellaring for 10 years

The purchase was completed last week, when The Fladgate Partnership CEO Adrian Bridge told db that his group – which is focused on Port, as well as tourism – had decided to enter the wine production sector too.

The acquisition sees Bridge’s company take on all the assets, stock included, of a business called Ideal Drinks, which comprises several estates in three major Portuguese wine regions: the Minho, Dão and Bairrada – but not the Douro, where The Fladgate Partnership is based and owns 500ha of vineyards for producing Port.

Founded by Portuguese businessman Carlos Dias in 2010, the properties are the source of a range of brands including white, red, rosé and sparkling wines with a focus on high-quality products with striking packaging – such its Alvarinho (pictured below).

Dias made his fortune in design and luxury watches – having founded the Roger Dubuis watch brand, which he sold 14 years ago, before setting up in the wine sector two years later.

He has decided to divest his wine business because his daughter, and sole heir to Ideal Drinks, is not interested in taking on the responsibility of managing the operations, according to Bridge.

Bridge, who, for many years, has declared his intention to focus on Port production, and not enter the business of grape growing for table wines, said that the opportunity presented by Ideal Drinks was too great to pass up, describing the wine company as the result of “12 years of passion” on the part of Dias.

Continuing he said, “Over the past 12 years Carlos has created extraordinary vineyards, and great brands with extraordinary packaging,” before commenting that these products have not yet been fully “commercialised”, particularly in regard to sales outside Portugal.

For Bridge, the products and “some considerable stocks” – which include 12 years’ worth of a top Bairrada ‘Bordeaux blend’ called Principal (pictured above) – provide The Fladgate Partnership with a chance to present a collection of fine Portuguese table wines to the world alongside the group’s great globally-distributed Port brands, from Taylor’s to Croft, Fonseca and Krohn.

“We are creating a wine division,” said Bridge, which will be led by Raul Riba D’Ave, who worked at Taylor’s Port from 2003 to 2008 before setting up his own distribution company and wine school in Porto.

In the portfolio of brands from Ideal Wines are wines from three regions, each with a specialism. These include the Alverinho-based wines of Quinta da Pedra and the Loureiro-based wines of Paço da Palmeira, both in the Minho; the Pinot Noir and local Dão grapes of Quinta da Bella, and the various wines from Quinta Colinas de São Lorenço in Bairrada – the source of the top-end Cabernet-Merlot blend, Principal.

Notably, Dias has worked with renowned wine consultant Pascal Chatonnet in the development of the wines at the estates – lending Ideal Drinks outside expertise from a Bordeaux-based winemaker who has supported famous properties such as Vega Sicilia.

Looking back, Bridge explained why he had not entered the Portuguese wine production business sooner, noting that his group has been focused on crafting premium Port, as well as waiting for something suitable before making a foray into the table wine sector.

“We need all the grapes we’ve got in the Douro to keep up with the demand for special category Port, which is why we haven’t been making Douro table wine,” he told db.

Continuing, he said, “The second reason we haven’t been doing table wine is because we are conscious of the fact that, if you launch into the table wine business, you have to be at a level of quality to compete with the best wines of the world.”

Nevertheless, he said that The Fladgate Partnership had “been considering Portuguese table wine for some time, primarily because we have a large number of customers around the world who have asked us if we can provide Portuguese table wine to them.”

He also said that having Portuguese table wines in the group was important to meet the demand for such wines from the increasing numbers of visitors to Portugal, and particularly to Porto, which is “a destination for wine lovers”, according to Bridge.

Indeed, the city and its Vila Nova de Gaia is not only home to many Port lodges, but also the World of Wine, which was founded by Bridge.

Summing up his decision to acquire Ideal Drinks, he told db, “We’ve been looking for the appropriate moment and the appropriate quality to launch our involvement in table wine.”

Continuing, he said, “We have someone who’s created amazing products with a leading wine consultant, and someone who hasn’t done anything with meaning outside Portugal, and with our international connections we have the opportunity to launch these wines across the world.”

The wines will “go live” with The Fladgate Partnership’s existing wine distribution and retailing division in Portugal called Heritage Wines this month and elsewhere in the world from 1 September, according to Bridge.

Although the price paid for Ideal Drinks has not been disclosed, Bridge told db, “Purchasing 200 hectares of top vineyards and a substantial amount of stock requires a good investment.”

He added, “We have done this properly.”

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