Roy wrote: In recent years, during travel through various wine appellations, I've been struck by the friendly competitive nature that allows large, medium and small sized producers to collaborate closely on promoting the wines from their region (as well as tourism).

The question for this month is:
Could you please elaborate on what it would take for this same dynamic to work well in the Douro? Additionally, what one thing could you or your company do to promote this type of collaborative environment in the Douro?

See the first set of replies in a prior article, Friendly Competition and Collaboration

Pedro Poças Pintão, Commercial Director, Manoel D. Poças Júnior - Vinhos S.A.

I believe that wine companies need to face their peers as partners and not only as competitors. For the wine tourism, that is crucial: nobody will travel to the Douro to visit just one winery - but even for the wine sales it is extremely important. With the exception of Port wine, Douro wines (and Portuguese wines in general) are practically unknown to the average wine consumer all over the world. Therefore, at this stage it is more important to start building the brand “Portugal” or “Douro” before building individual brands.

In order to achieve this, companies could start sharing resources: this can go from non-strategic assets (eg. bottling facilities), sales people in emerging markets, promotional activities (tastings, incentive programs with restaurants) and perhaps even more important, market information and experience.

Pedro Mansila Branco, Proprietor, Quinta do Portal

Despite the fact that I believe there’s a very good competitive and friendly environment in the Portuguese wine business, when it comes to partnering with your next door neighbor things sometimes are not so easy. I suppose this is part of the human nature. The Douro is no exception despite there is some good examples that have been working very well. Another reality in the Douro is that you have a handful of players that are responsible for 4/5 of Port sales. The dimension and size of the players can sometimes act as a barrier to more collaboration.

So the easiest way I can see a collaborative environment succeeding is between wineries of approximately the same size and same philosophy in terms of quality, target markets, viticulture, and sustainable practices, etc. Of course if you have the same ambition as a bigger player in the region and for its wines, I don’t see why things shouldn’t also work.

Regarding your second question, we have built a new cellar building with an auditorium and social area that is open to all the wineries and winemakers of the Douro. This building should be seen as being of the region and not just limited specifically to Quinta do Portal. The building is not inside the “quinta walls” so it works as an independent site that everyone in the region can use in the best way to promote their wines.

In our restaurant we welcome other wineries to bring their clients and their wines. We want Portal to be the Doors of the Douro. Doors that everyone can use to show a new, collaborative, modern and ambitious Douro! We also believe there is more room for an exchange of expertise, whether in the vineyards and/or wineries and we are always willing to collaborate actively in these fields.

Roy responds:

After reading the interesting perspectives of the various members of the Port trade, I had time to carefully reflect on the answers that were given. It led me to do a mini op/ed piece in the form of a blog post which some of you may have already read. For those that have not seen it as of yet, I offer this as my response to the topic re: the collaborative nature of the Port and Douro wine trade today.

In the November issue of the For the Love of Port newsletter, there was a potent, A Question for the Port Trade. It raised a very simple question, without judgment.

Paraphrasing, it asked members of the Port (and Douro wine) trade to discuss ways in which the industry as a whole, or they as individuals or their companies, could work more closely together for the betterment of Port, Douro wine, tourism and most of all ... to promote the Douro region so that the average wine drinker will realize that Douro and even Portugal is not part of Spain. In all sincerity, and this is just my opinion ... the single greatest challenge that faces the Douro region ... Port, DOC wines and tourism -- is NOT the lack of promotion and education of the wines, however critical those are, too. No, in fact those two dynamics are down in the pecking order at least a notch or two.

The single greatest challenge that faces the Douro region and its wine today is the dysfunction that surrounds cohesive marketing due to the lack of any singular unified effort to promote Douro and Portugal on a grand scale. I am not looking for a scapegoat for the turbulence in Port's sales or declining worldwide market share; lack of more Portuguese wine available in the USA, or even the quagmire that is beneficio rights.

Please don't read into this that I'm wagging my finger at the likes of the IVDP, AEVP or ViniPortugal. Privately, nearly everyone is willing to admit those entities could do more to bring prosperity to the region. However, the solution is far simpler than those complex entities' efficacy.

For a change, this is not about the government or agencies that represent the disparate groups within Northern Portugal's wine business. The real affliction is that the vast majority of company's do not see it in their best self interest to work more closely as an industry. They pay lip service to being engaged in doing so, but in reality ... many large/medium/small companies don't practice what they preach.

There are exceptions of course, but as an industry ... the wine industry ... it is too fraught with disparate interests; growers vs. shippers, small vs. large producers, Port shippers vs. DOC wine producers. I wish the incoming new President of the IVDP, Mr. Manuel Cabral the best of luck in unifying the various groups and focusing on core issues like this.

Some producers who I have had a long term relationship with, may see this as a stab in the back. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This is aimed at no one in particular and at the very same time, everyone in particular. In a perfect world, all entities would find a way to improve the collaborative joint marketing efforts with their "competitors."

It may sound naive, but in reality, it is all about putting out a unified message: that the diversity of the Douro, from the Port that is its tradition, to the red wines which have become its renaissance, and more lately to the crisp whites which are improving all the time ... as Miguel Braga of Quinta do Mourão, said so candidly in Zev's film, Life on the Douro: "We have everything here." Maybe that is the perfect tag line for the region!

Obviously I would love to see the region flourishing and I don't mean to paint a dismal picture here. For all intents and purposes, there are many things to look at with a very positive point of view. The quality of the wine in the region has never been better and that goes for Port too.

Slowly but surely, the tourism infrastructure has grown in a grass roots fashion without allowing it to turn into an overbuilt Funchal, or Napa-run-wild. The region continues to attract many a talented young winemaker, both men and women who have a deep love for the vineyards, people and wine itself. So I remain very bullish on Douro!

Nonetheless, it is my mission to use my voice to call for better cooperation between rivals and competing companies. As short term thinking and quarterly reports are not the driving force of wine in Northern Portugal, it is imperative to put out a united message beyond what separate companies can do, or even progressive groups like the Douro Boys or events like "The New Douro" can achieve.

Should this very simple philosophy be embraced (by the various sized companies) that all benefit to some degree from wine produced in our favorite region ... there will be a far greater chance that the world will learn the truth about what the Douro has to offer ... everything!