This month FTLOP is proud to introduce you to Joana Pinhão.  Here is Joana’s story:

1. How did you break into the Porto and Douro wine trade and at what age?

I broke into the Douro wine trade after doing my final internship with Cristiano van Zeller at Quinta Vale D. Maria in the extraordinary 2007 Harvest. A little bit out of persistence before I finished university I choose to apply to another internship in a wine region that I didn't know, the Douro Valley. The only thing I knew was that I would like to find a small winery, producing high quality wines that would allow me to take part in all the aspects of the viticulture and winemaking process. I was lucky enough that Cristiano van Zeller and Sandra Tavares da Silva were still looking for interns to complete the team at Quinta Vale D. Maria for the 2007 harvest, one of the best vintages we ever had at the Quinta. After harvest ended and during an end-of-harvest dinner at Cristiano’s house in Porto, Cristiano invited me to stay on and work at Vale D. Maria, which caught me a little bit by surprise, but of course, I accepted with great pleasure. So we may say that I started fully in the year of 2008, at the age of 26.

2. What is your favorite style of Douro wine and also Port to drink at home, and can you name two or three of the greatest one’s you’ve ever tried?

Style of Douro wines to drink at home:
White: minerality, fresh, crispy wines, good citric aromatic profile.
Red: dark/red mature fruited, good acidity to balance them, structured and complex, not overly oaked.

Style of Porto to drink at home: Tawny Ports and Colheitas.
I can name two that I tasted recently that I love: Quinta Vale D. Maria 2004 Red and Quinta Vale D. Maria 2001 Vintage Port.
Probably, the experience of having a very special bottle during a dinner with Dirk Niepoort and two American wine lovers in Chicago. A half bottle of 1863 Niepoort Colheita Port which Dirk brought; is the greatest memory I have when talking about Port.

3. Besides wines from your own company, what others do you most enjoy drinking?

It always depends on the style you’re looking for. I like the wines from a lot of different producers.
Douro and Port: Niepoort, Quinta do Crasto, Quinta do Passadouro, Churchill, Quinta do Vallado, Alves de Sousa, Quinta do Vale Meão, Wine & Soul, Quinta do Noval, Taylor, Symington, Quinta de Santa Eufémia.
Alentejo: Quinta do Mouro, Malhadinha Nova, Dona Maria, Zambujeiro.
Tejo: Quinta da Lagoalva, Casa Cadaval, Vale d’Algares.
Lisboa: Quinta de Chocapalha.

4. What brings you the most joy in what you do within the Douro wine trade?

In my opinion the most important thing you can do in life is to do what you are passionate about and I love viticulture and winemaking. I love being in the vineyards during the harvest time and selecting the best grapes possible, because I know that I will be able to make very nice wines and people will appreciate them.

So, surely, what brings me the most joy in what I do within the Douro wine trade is being able to go to work every day knowing that I’m doing what I studied for (Viticulture and Enology), working in one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world, with one of its best producers and being able to do whites, roses, red and Port wines, surrounded by great people; an extraordinary team. A plus of being in the wine trade is that it also allows us to travel, see others countries, know different people, their cultures and wines of course. It is also a great pleasure to welcome people, wine/port lovers or simply people interested about knowing more about wine, to the Douro.

5. Would you please share one piece of unique trivia or historical information about your company that would be new to FTLOP readers?

Our women´s Team:
Sandra Tavares da Silva and Me – Enology
Mariana Brito – Viticulture
None of us were born in the Douro Region. I was born in Santarém, lived in Lisbon, studied in Lisbon in University (Instituto Superior de Agronomia). Sandra – was born in the Azores, lived in Lisbon, studied in Lisbon in University (Instituto Superior de Agronomia). Mariana – was born in Lisbon, lived in Lisbon until going to Vila Real to the UTAD, (Universidade de Trás Os Montes e Alto Douro).

6. Which individual has been your greatest mentor and how have they inspired you?

In life, my parents, who taught me the value of hard work and how to face the problems with bravery. Giving me the encouragement that I needed to follow my dreams, experiencing all challenges and being open to all different cultures and open minded in all steps of life.

And for sure the two people who have welcomed and inspired me in the wine world: Cristiano van Zeller and Sandra Tavares.

Cristiano, for the greatness of spirit, for the vision in what wine concerns, for the love that he has for the region and wine and for allowing everyone who works with him to experiment, travel and connect to the wine world.

Sandra, for the talent, for the perseverance and the ability to balance all aspects of life, for the great calmness and patience, (which is such a great quality in the wine business) in which she approaches the wine trade.

7. What is the greatest challenge facing the Douro wine trade today?

Marketing/promotion, or how to promote the quality wines produced in the region to the domestic marketplace, but even more importantly, to the foreign markets and consumers, viewing and promoting the extraordinary differences we have (the soil, the grape varieties, the climate, the landscape …) and trying to expand into all the new and important markets, as little as they may seem.

8. Can you share one new project or improvement that your company is involved with?

Sure, we are now producing wine in Spain, in Toro. It is produced from 100% Tinta de Toro grapes, from ungrafted vineyards, which are 12 to 140 years old. The brand name is: Terra d’Uro.

2011 Team:
Marina Brito – Viticulturist
Peter Arky – Our American (No. Carolina) Intern
Joana Pinhão - Winemaker

9. What can the industry do to improve the promotion and education of Port and Douro wine and grow market share in the ever evolving beverage marketplace?

There are several things which are needed: Sharing information, taking an active presence in the markets, producers must work collectively to break into new markets, education for the consumer as well as sommeliers by doing group tastings and food/wine pairings, etc.) And in the global picture the trade needs to embrace the new technologies and social media, (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) as a way to quickly and efficiently spread information regarding promotion and education where Port and Douro wines is concerned. Also, attracting people to the Douro, so that they can experience the unique flavours of our “little world” and spread the word once they get back to their own countries.

10. What non-wine activities do you enjoy?

I enjoy playing tennis, riding horses, viewing cinema and spending most of my free time with my family and friends.

The FTLOP series, Port Personalities In Focus, alternates with A Question for the Port Trade every other month. In Focus concentrates on bridging the gap, introducing readers to people who are not usually in the media’s spotlight, with some license to occasionally “interview” someone that is. In Focus brings you candid comments, personal perspectives, and a better understanding of the people inside the trade. From sales and marketing professionals, to master blenders, winemakers and vineyard managers, to distributors and importers, owners and managing directors; In Focus will introduce you to Port personalities who work at small family-owned operations to the largest wine companies in Portugal. We hope you’ll benefit from meeting the people on these pages!