The Fladgate Partnership has acquired Quinta da Eira Velha for 3.25 million euros. That seems like a bargain when considering that they will receive about approximately 125 acres (50 hectares) of A rated vineyard land, which will bring their total holdings at their 11 Quintas to 2000 acres (800 ha). An impressive if not fortuitous move by TFP and further evidence that there is no end in site to the “consolidation movement” within the Port trade.
The Fladgate Partnership group had also purchased 17% of the Messias Port firm one year ago and is now negotiating to buy the remainder of the company. It is said that Taylor is interested in the Port Wine side of the Messias Company. They have been actively pursuing prime Quinta properties in the Douro for about the last decade and back in 2001, added both Croft, for their diamond in the rough, Quinta da Roêda, and Delaforce for its old stocks of wood aged Tawnies. While land is still somewhat reasonably priced in the Douro, when high quality parcels become available, especially with A and B grade vineyards, (which receive larger beneficio rights) shrewd businessmen become aggressive land and Quinta buyers.
There are 5 major Port companies, (mostly family owned) that control the vast majority of the Port industry and have significant power both in export markets and even within the IVDP. Additionally, there are between 37,000 and 41,000 growers in the Douro, depending on whose statistics you listen to. Less than 20% of those growers own properties with land holdings that exceed 25 acres (10 ha). That is a remarkably small number, especially when you consider the Symington’s now own 26 Quinta properties and along with Real Companhia Velha, are the largest land owners in the Douro.
The Fladgate Partnership made the Eira Velha purchase from the Newman family which has always maintained strong ties in Newfoundland, Canada. The Newman family has deep roots in the Port trade dating back to 1679 (just 9 years after Warre, which was the first British firm to enter the Port trade) and Quinta da Eira Velha can trace its roots back to 1513. I am not sure exactly when the Newman family acquired Eira Velha but the connection goes back about 200 years. At one time they also were the owners of Hunt, Roope & Company which was eventually sold off to Ferreira in 1956, but the Newman’s retained the rights and ownership of Quinta da Eira Velha.
The Newman’s connection to the North Atlantic coastal town of Newfoundland was based on their active participation and successful business in trading cod for Port. They plan to continue to hold the trademark of “Newman’s Celebrated Port” albeit their Port will now be vinified and bottled by The Fladgate Partnership, which makes plenty of sense.
I saw a report which mentioned that Peter Newman felt that the Symington’s purchase of Cockburn’s early in the summer of 2006 (along with the massive property at Quinta dos Canais) was the final straw that initiated their desire to make an exit from the Port trade. Whether true or not, that report stated that Newman believed that Ports made by the Symington’s would wind up being “commercialized.” The connection here is that since Cockburn’s had been making Single Quinta Vintage Ports (SQVP) from Eira Velha grapes going back almost 30 years to 1978, (Martinez a few years later, if I am not mistaken) then possibly the concern was how the Symington’s would make SQVPs from Eira Velha now that they owned Cockburn’s. This would make sense, except that from where I sit … every Port company the Symington’s have purchased (same can be said for The Fladgate Partnership) has actually improved! Anyway, who knows the real reason?
Eira Velha’s 125 acres should boost TFP’s annual output by another 100 pipes or 6,000 cases of Port. The Fladgate Partnership intends to sell the Port wine under the Quinta’s name since they’ve been marketing SQVPs as mentioned, for nearly 30 years now. Why change and have to create a brand in the marketplace?
David Guimaraens, the very talented young head of winemaking for the entire TFP group provided some interesting insight mentioning that their property Quinta da Casa Nova is directly adjacent to Quinta da Eira Velha. Not surprisingly, David commented that he was “happy” that no Douro wines would be made at their new property. Adrian Bridge, the Managing Director of The Fladgate Partnership, said; " … it's rare to find an estate of this quality and size on the market. So, when we were presented with the sale of Quinta da Eira Velha, we leapt at the opportunity." Mr. Bridge went on to say that "we are very pleased to add this historic property to the portfolio of top Quintas of the Douro.”