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Sogrape Seeks Major Leap Forward For Portuguese Wines In The U.S. Market

January 25, 2019

Portuguese wine group Sogrape Vinhos is looking to make new strides in the U.S. market this year, leveraging long-term investments in its vineyards as well as rising consumer awareness of Portugal’s still wines. “We think Portugal is poised to become the U.S. wine market’s next big thing, and we want to lead the trend,” says Sogrape CEO Fernando da Cunha Guedes.

Sogrape, which has annual sales of around $250 million, exports 70% of its total production. The United States, where its brands are marketed by U.S. subsidiary Evaton, comprises around 15% of its export sales. “I think Evaton can easily double that share number in the near term,” says Guedes. “We’re investing in people and wine education.”

One key label in the U.S. portfolio is Silk & Spice ($13), a Portuguese red blend that launched in late 2016. With a name inspired by the historical silk and spice routes between Europe and Asia, the brand is an approachable red targeted at the super-premium tier. A blend of 40% Touriga Nacional and 20% each of Baga, Syrah, and Alicante Bouchet, Silk & Spice is vinified from grapes sourced from the Dão, Bairrada, and Lisboa regions. “Silk & Spice can become the No.-1 Portuguese wine brand in the U.S. market,” argues Guedes. The brand sold 27,000 cases in the U.S. last year, and is on track to deplete 45,000 cases in 2019. Sogrape also touts Vinho Verde label Gazela ($8), which relaunched in late 2017 with new packaging. Gazela depleted 75,000 cases in the U.S. market last year, according to Impact Databank.

Stamford, Connecticut-based Evaton, which does around $30 million in annual sales, also recently won the marketing rights to Sandeman Port after it moved from Pernod Ricard USA in July. “The addition of Sandeman is a game-changer for us,” says Evaton CEO Stephen Brauer, who took the helm this past summer. “Port is starting to show some healthy trends—particularly for aged Tawnies, where Sandeman has deep roots.” Sandeman’s aged Tawny lineup includes a 10-year-old ($35), 20-year-old ($50-$55), 30-year-old ($100), and 40-year-old ($159). The 10- and 20-year-old both received 91 points from Wine Spectator, while the 30-year-old scored a 93 and the 40-year-old scored a 94. Sandeman also produces a single quinta label, Quinta do Seixo, whose 2015 vintage retails at $55 and rated 91 from Wine Spectator. Sandeman depleted 52,000 cases in the U.S. market in 2017, according to Impact Databank.

Among Sogrape’s table wines, a key label from the Douro is Casa Ferreirinha, including the Casa Ferreirinha Douro White Papa Figos 2016 ($18), which ranked No.-72 on Wine Spectator’s 2018 Top 100 list. Other noteworthy labels include Quinta dos Carvalhais Touriga Nacional ($40) from Dão, as well as Herdade do Peso from Alentejo, which is led by its Colheita ($20) and Trinca Bolotas ($12) labels. Sogrape also produces single estate Vinho Verde Quinta do Azevedo ($15), which will relaunch late in the first quarter.

An old standby from Sogrape is Mateus, which will relaunch later this year with a full makeover. “It’s a significant retooling of a very traditional brand, which involves the packaging, positioning, messaging, and the wine style itself,” Brauer says. The once-mighty Mateus depleted some 1.3 million cases in the U.S. market back in 1981 during its glory years, but last year was down to just 26,000 cases. Evaton is aiming to see Mateus tap into the current U.S. craze for rosé wines.—David Fleming

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