Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Portugal: worry-free wine

Written by Marie-Line Darcy, LISBON on Monday, February 20th 2012 à 09:29 | Read 1787 times



Portugal is very much a stickler for the rules concerning the packaging and the standards for the safety of its largely exported high-end wine. The principal difficulty lies in maintaining stable and low temperatures in order to ensure the quality of the wine is maintained during its shipment to Brazil or Angola.

The Porto Cruz bottling line (photo Marie-Line Darcy)
The Porto Cruz bottling line (photo Marie-Line Darcy)

PORTUGAL. The world’s eighth largest wine producer, Portugal specialises in high-end wines that could be classed as “modest” when compared with the French Grand Crus for example. A wine that sells for €20 straight from the cellar will be sold for €100-150 in a North American store. There are, however, exceptions, such as the great ports where certain Vintage or Grand Reserve ports can retail for between €2,000-3,000 a bottle.

Packaging rules and safety standards are strictly adhered to throughout the country. They achieve this on two fronts at the Quinta Nova estate, part of the Amorim SGPS group, located in the Douro Demarcated Region in Northern Portugal, where 50% of its production is high-end (26% exported). “Firstly through the packaging of the wine in our cellars which complies with the standards currently in force in Europe and secondly, through our network of partners responsible for selling our wines in their respective countries. Different from France for example, where wine merchants dominate”, explains Manager, Luisa Amorim.
Every operator in the sector believes that establishing relationships of trust with the importers/distributors is the way to guarantee wine safety. One of the country’s valuable assets is the large diaspora of 5 million Portuguese in over 120 countries around the world !

From production to distribution, standards are complied with throughout.

The vines of the Douro valley, the Porto region (photo Marie-Line Darcy)
The vines of the Douro valley, the Porto region (photo Marie-Line Darcy)

The specifications regarding D.O.C (Registered Designation of Origin) classified wines and therefore fine wines comply with European standards: glass bottle inspection, cork certification, labelling and packaging is undertaken in the cellar. At Sogrape (40% of all Portuguese bottled wine) which handles millions of bottles each year, the packaging of wine for export is at the heart of wine safety. A sentiment echoed by Luis Gouveia, Sales Director at DFJ Vinhos (8 million bottles/year, 90% of which exported), who underlines that the certifications issued by the CVRs (Regional Winegrowing Commissions) guarantee a quality wine. In 2006, Portugal’s Food and Economic Safety Authority, the ASAE, was created - a national body responsible for food hygiene inspection and fiscal audit. An organisation both formidable and feared!

According to Viniportugal (a wine marketing organisation), 80% of non- road freight exports to third countries is by sea with air freight reserved for special shipments (trade fairs, exhibitions) or wine bundled with food (Christmas hampers). Cost, therefore, is the primary criterion when selecting the means of transportation.

Port logistics favour departures from Leixoes (Porto, in the North of Portugal), Lisbon and Sines (to the south of Lisbon) and, further afield on the Iberian peninsula, Algeciras and Barcelona.

The principal difficulty for Portuguese exporters is to maintain stable and low temperatures during transit so as to guarantee the quality of the wine. The use of refrigerated containers is compulsory when shipping to destinations such as Brazil (Portugal is the world’s 4th largest exporter to this country) and Angola (Portugal is the world’s leading exporter to the country). There is a very large demand in these emerging markets however they operate significant protectionist policies, with taxes in Brazil, for example, ranging from 70-80%.

This has led to the appearance of “couriers”, responsible for bringing 24-36 duty free bottles of wine back into the country by plane. “The practice is legal and even if a plane ticket was to cost 1,000 euros it would still be profitable. Note however, that this only applies to incredibly expensive wines such as Cristal champagne, and rarely to a Portuguese wine, even of high quality” explains wine broker Joao Guteres.

Special issue : Ensuring the logistical safety and security of Mediterranean wines

En français : La logistique des vins méditerranéens

Special issue in partnership with Vinisud  

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