A day in Lisbon
Spent a day in Lisbon, doing some benchmarking for Portuguese producer D&F. The idea: D&F are trying to crack the UK market (among others) with a range of wines, mainly from co-ops plus some from private growers. They put together a tasting for their various winemakers of some 31 wines, including six branded wines from elsewhere that have proved successful in the UK. They invite two UK journalists with a particular interest in Portuguese wines (Simon Woods and myself) to come out to give them our perspective on the wines.
Simon and I were asked to be honest, and we were, which at times proved quite uncomfortable. But it was a worthwhile exercise. I think there were some good wines there, but not many that I think will stand a chance in the crowded UK marketplace. But they aren't a million miles away from being successful. Packaging/label design/presentation was perhaps the biggest problem. The labels need to be better designed (with the UK market in mind), and give the sorts of information that will help consumers make a decision. The use of shrink-on plastic capsules should be avoided because these look horribly cheap.
The winemaking was also a tiny bit off for UK palate preferences. As a whole, the reds were too oxidative in style and lacked freshness and definition. For this level of the market - inexpensive supermarket wines - the fruit is the key, and it needs to be bright and attractive. The raw materials that these wines are made from seem to be fairly sound in almost all cases. Two of the whites were really impressive; the roses were a little off target, though. But the fact that D&F are doing this sort of exercise is tremendously encouraging, and the hope is that just by getting all these winemakers together to talk and bond will have some real benefit that will be seen in the wines.
Also had a chance to wander round a bit during the lunch break. Didn't get far, but it's always great fun to wander round interesting cities such as Lisbon.