Meet the women who are playing cards in the wine business in Portugal

JE tells the story of Leonor Freitas, Casa Ermelinda Freitas, Olga Martins, Lavradores de Feitoria, Rita Nabeiro, Adega Mayor, Filipa Pato, Pato and Wouters, and Luísa Amorim, Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo and Quinta of Taboadella.

Leonor Freitas, Casa Ermelinda Freitas
Leonor Freitas took over as managing partner of Casa Ermelinda shortly after her father, Manuel João
de Freitas Jr, having passed away, making her the only one in the line of succession in the leadership of the company.

Leonor Freitas, Casa Ermelinda Freitas

“I have to stress that at the beginning it was not easy, I had to tell myself many times that it was not because I was a woman that I was not going to continue the work, that it had been done by my family, with a lot of effort and sacrifice, because the work rural was never easy ”, she told JE herself, admitting she had difficulties adapting
at the beginning of her career as a company leader, namely, because she is sometimes the only woman to be present at an assembly in this sector.

Although it has experienced difficulties in adapting, the company's growth in recent years has been remarkable.

Casa Ermelinda Freitas is today considered one of the best wine producers in the country. Since Leonor Freitas took the lead, the company has won more than 600 awards and distinctions worldwide and this year was elected European producer of the year for the second consecutive time at the Sommelier Wine Awards 2020.

In fact, even the managing partner herself was deserving of a distinction by the former President of the Republic, Cavaco Silva, with the degree of commander of the Order of Agricultural Merit.

In terms of gender equality, the official considers that the wine sector is no different from the rest, although this is predominantly led by men.

“In my opinion, there is gender equality in many companies. Here, in wines, a minority, since, as we all know it was and still is, but in evolution, a sector of male predominance ”, he says, adding that, despite everything, the sector is moving in the right direction.

“I think that society is dynamic and that women are increasingly occupying management positions. We are on the path of equality, that is, the right people in the right positions regardless of gender, ”he says.


Olga Martins, Farmers
Olga Martins is the current CEO of Lavradores de Feitoria, but the taste for wine has not always been present in her life. When Olga joined the Douro wine company, she confesses that “everything that was lacking in experience was largely compensated by a vibrant enthusiasm”.

Olga Martins, Farmers

The businesswoman went from a course in chemical engineering to harvesting, immediately rolling up her sleeves to grow together with Lavradores de Feitoria, created in September 2000, assuming that the beginning was “very challenging and interesting”, she tells JE.

The businesswoman joined the company at the age of 26 and, at 45, admitted that “growing with the company has been a hard journey, difficult in many moments but with a very positive balance”, compensated for all the work done to date and to the wines created under your supervision.

The passion of the Lavradores de Feitoria CEO for wines is linked to her intimate passion for the Douro region. "It is a unique region, which leaves me overwhelmed by the landscape, history, resilience and character, which is then reflected in the wines". To JE, Olga confesses that “the notion of how small and ephemeral we are” is something that deeply marks her. “Walking in an old vineyard, drinking a Port 100 years old… makes me think how many hands spent there, how many people had sleepless nights due to worry (as I have now), how many lives, how many dreams. It is almost poetic but it is true ”, he confesses.

Current concerns stem from the pandemic, which penalized the wine segment. The businesswoman's strategy was to continue to pay suppliers and keep the activity at 100%, and still make improvements in internal processes.

In February 2015, Olga Martins was decorated by Aníbal Cavaco Silva, then President of the Republic, with the degree of Officer of the Order of Business Merit, Class of Agricultural Merit.

Referring to gender equality in a sector dominated by men, Olga Martins argues that “there is still no gender balance, but I think we are moving there”, arguing that “equal opportunities” are given to everyone.


Rita Nabeiro, Adega Mayor
During his childhood he rode his bicycle through his family's Alentejo hill, among the chickens and cows, in Campo Maior, before the current Delta Cafés factory was built - which is his family's biggest business. In 2004, a new stage began, when Grupo Nabeiro started producing the first wines - today it has more than 350 hectares of agricultural production, of which 80 are vineyards.

Rita Nabeiro, Adega Mayor

Rita Nabeiro has always felt a special closeness for the wine business, a taste she acquired from her grandfather. Perhaps also because the cellar was built on the terrain that I traveled by bicycle. For this reason, he followed the project closely: he saw the walls of the building idealized by the architect Siza Vieira being erected until they became what they are today, the symbol of the Adega Mayor.

The current CEO of the wine company is one of the few women in the sector, but looks for equality
with optimism.

“In the wine sector, there has been a positive evolution, but since this has been a male territory par excellence for many years, the representation of women is still reduced compared to men”, says the official to JE, discarding from the outset having felt leadership difficulties associated with gender.

Rita Nabeiro makes it clear that a person in a leadership position must be “competent, human and demanding for himself and for others, regardless of gender”, however, she does not devalue that if her example serves as inspiration for someone, in the wine sector or other, to provide an opportunity for a woman to take a leadership role, which sees it “as an extremely positive and healthy reinforcement”.
Graduated in marketing and design, the CEO of Adega Mayor says that “it was necessary to leave the comfort zone, learn about wines, management, leadership” to face the challenge of this family business.

“The opportunity to lead the Adega Mayor team came naturally and consensually within the family,” he says. "It happened without pomp and circumstance, but with the confidence and responsibility that the position requires", he stresses.


Filipa Pato, Pato and Wouters
Filipa Pato belongs to a long line of wine producers in Bairrada, which dates back to the 2011th century, at least. Daughter of Luís Pato, the first to seriously believe in the potential of Baga and put it on the radar of the great critics of the sector, she was the first, and until now the only Portuguese woman to win the Oscar of Wine, a distinction attributed by the prestigious magazine German gourmet “Feinschmeker” in XNUMX.

Filipa Pato, Pato and Wouters

With a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Coimbra, the businesswoman refined her skills as a wine producer by harvesting in Bordeaux, France, Mendoza, Argentina and Margaret River, Australia, with her father.

In 2001, the opportunity arose to open the company and, in 2006, she joined the Belgian husband, William Wouter, with whom she lived, until 2014, in Antwerp.

Today, Filipa Pato is part of a generation of women who lead a company in a sector in Portugal that is still predominantly male.

“In the wine area in particular, in Portugal it is still difficult to be a woman in a world dominated by men,
and it is no coincidence that many producers still look to male children as
their work ”, says the person in charge to JE.

As for wines, the production, which remains in line with family values, “mirrors the region in an authentic way, using only indigenous varieties, some centuries-old vineyards and biodynamic viticulture”, he explains.

"Today we have our vineyards certified in biological and biodynamic, we have revitalized areas that were killed by the use and abuse of herbicides and pesticides, we created biodiversity and a pure and healthy environment", he continues.

Pato e Wouters produces close to 100 thousand bottles, exporting to around 30 countries and is today a renowned producer of wines from Bairrada.

"I think that there is still no equality in large companies, but it is good to see that there are more and more women entrepreneurs without fear of taking risks, even on a smaller scale", he considers.


Luísa Amorim, Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo and Quinta da Taboadella
Businesswoman Luísa Amorim currently leads three wine productions: Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo, Quinta da Taboadella and Herdade Aldeia de Cima, the last being a personal project of her own.

The youngest daughter of the businessman Américo Amorim took over the reins of the wine industry within the Amorim group and family, being one of the most resounding names in the medium.

Luísa Amorim, Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo and Quinta da Taboadella

In 2018, Luísa Amorim added Quinta da Taboadella to the hectares she already had available in the North. The businesswoman tells JE that “for many years we have been looking for a project to invest in wine and curious people in the demarcated region of Dão and, in 2018, the opportunity for this hidden treasure arises”, joining the first and neighbor Nossa Senhora do Carmo.

The investment in Herdade Aldeia de Cima, which took the Douro terraces to Alentejo, was a more personal desire on the part of the businesswoman. “Since I was a child, I have been in contact with the Alentejo through my father and cork. This estate is a property that I inherited and in 2017, the year of his death. Together with my husband and my daughters, we decided to plant a small vineyard on traditional levels in Serra do Mendro and it was thus, in a remarkable year for all of us, that this small family project begins ”, says Luísa Amorim.

Admittedly in love with wine, Luísa Amorim confesses that there are so many things she likes that “maybe a good glass of wine [as the radio says] and a sheet of paper would not arrive to share what I love most”. “We have to have love for what we are doing, especially when we work with wine. Nature, human creation, watching it grow, the constant challenge, the human environment, love of the land, simplicity ”, he enumerates, demonstrating that more than just a good vineyard and rain is needed.

In the face of gender equality, Luísa Amorim confesses that “I never felt differences and I never distinguished between genders in our companies”, she maintains, adding that she increasingly finds more women in the world of wines.

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