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Fladgate to ramp up its table wine business

The Fladgate Partnership will initiate “continued purchases of vineyards” to strengthen its Principal brand, db has learned, following the Port producer branching out into table wine last year.

In September last year The Fladgate Partnership took ownership of high-end Portuguese wine brand Principal as part of a wider acquisition of estates under the Ideal Wine umbrella, formerly owned by Swiss watch entrepreneur Carlos Dias.

The Principal arm of the enterprise came with 56 hectares of Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, located in the heart of the Bairrada region, plantings which according to Adrian Bridge will soon see additional hectarage.

At a vertical tasting of Principal Grande Reserva held in London yesterday, Bridge revealed that the “continued purchase of vineyards” was key to the new business, and that Fladgate would prioritise giving the brand “the resources it needs to grow”.

Purchasing land in Barraida, he said, is more straightforward than in the Douro which “adopted Napoleonic land laws” and has in the realm of 30,000 small growers “which all rely on their patch”.

In Barraida, it’s a different story, where, said Bridge, “it is fairly easy – in as much as buying land in Portugal is ever easy – to continue to pick up parcels of land.”

He also pointed to the forthcoming arrival of a high-speed railway line linking the Portuguese cities of Porto and Lisbon, which “will inevitably provoke a certain degree of land ownership change”, and hinted that it could provide an opportunity for Fladgate in the next five to 10 years in terms of vineyard purchases.

Bairrada, Portugal

Principal was the former owner’s “dream”, Bridge told the drinks business, but “he didn’t really want to sell the wine.” Hence bottles of Principal having only been available in the Portuguese market until now.

Fladgate Still & Sparkling Wines, as the company’s table wine venture is now known, plans to ramp up international exports for the wine, beginning with the 2012 vintage of Principal Grande Reserva, followed by a new release “every seven or eight years”.

Bridge explained that the discovery of a 1km underground tunnel at the winery would allow the team to store wine there immediately after bottling, creating more room for wooden barrels in the main cellar.

“Whenever you buy any company the person selling it to you tells you it’s perfect – then you find out it’s not always the case,” he said of the available space at the property and its capacity to cope with expansion.

The Ideal Wine acquisition includes two estates in the Minho – Alvarinho producer Quinta da Pedra in the Alto Minho, and Paço de Palmeira, a Loureiro specialist.

Also included in the deal was Quinta de Bella in the Dão; and, in Bairrada, Colinas São Lourenço (where Principal is produced) and Quinta da Curia.

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