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Portugal winemaker bucks the trend

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - 02:34

Mar 23 - Casa Ermelinda Freitas, a Portuguese winemaking company which has been in the same family for four generations, are looking to sell their wine abroad as Portugal's economy struggles. Joanna Partridge reports.

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Leonor Freitas is the fourth generation of Portuguese women to run her family's wine business. She renamed the company after her mother - and Casa Ermelinda Freitas produces 7 million litres of red, white, sparkling and dessert wine a year. The company's wine expert Jaime Quendera says the secret of their award-winning wines is in the soil of their vineyards - outside Lisbon in southern Portugal. SOUNDBITE: Jaime Quendera, Winemaker at Casa Ermelinda Freitas, saying (English): "Our secret is we are close to the sea, like 10, 15 miles at most, and on the summer we have hot summers in the south of Portugal, we have the cool breeze from the sea which refreshes the vineyards. And this brings smoothness and elegance to the wines." The wines are made from Portuguese and international grapes. The company sells about 60% of its wine at home, exporting the remaining 40%. Casa Ermelinda Freitas is one success story in the euro zone economy, currently struggling with austerity measures designed to cut its budget deficit. As it reduces pensions and cuts state spending, Portugal is also being priced out of the bond markets by nervous investors - where it has to pay over 7% to borrow money. Analysts say these borrowing costs are unsustainable - and expect Lisbon to have to seek a bailout from the EU. PTC: Casa Ermelinda Freitas' business is still growing, in spite of the economic crisis in Portugal. But the situation means they're looking at foreign markets to export to, and they're also making more competitively-priced wines to sell in the Portuguese domestic market. Leonor says former Portuguese colonies are a big market for them. SOUNDBITE: Leonor Freitas, Manager of Casa Ermelinda Freitas, saying (Portuguese): "We are poised for growth in Portugal but our big bets are on Brazil and China, and Africa too. Wherever we can, we never let an opportunity pass us to sell to those countries. Here in Portugal we have adapted our products to suit consumers and changing tastes, so we don't lose market share." Leonor is looking at new ways to grow the company - for when she hands the firm over to the fifth generation of Freitas women. Having finished her studies, Leonor's daughter Joana is now working for the business and hopes to run it one day. Joanna Partridge, Reuters

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Portugal winemaker bucks the trend

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - 02:34