Keeping Tight With The Media

Photo by Robert Stephen.

Over looking the river and the old section of Oporto.
Photo by Robert Stephen.

Header-image-StephenBy Robert K. Stephen (CSW)

(OPORTO, PORTUGAL) – The Canadian wine industry could certainly learn a thing or two from the Portuguese and Euro brainpower and coffers behind Port Wine Day. It took place on September 10 in Oporto, Portugal.

With close to 40 journalists invited to the event, it is clear that wine remains an important export for both Portugal and the EU as a whole.

I think the organizing brains behind this event realized that almost all wine writers are poorly paid, or not paid at all. Therefore, covering transportation and accommodation for the journalists gets them to attend an event they, or their publishers, couldn’t otherwise afford.

Photo by Robert Stephen.

The red tiled roofs of Quinta la Rosa, where another wine tasting and tour took place.
Photo by Robert Stephen.

It gives exposure to Douro wines that no advertising could ever give. The messages and lessons learnt by these journalists will be transmitted throughout the world. And this is not a single event, but rather one of many the EU and Portugal undertake to protect and promote their stake in the viciously competitive wine market.

No, you don’t just pour wine for the media. You give them something to think about, hence the two panel discussions in the morning; namely, Past, Future, and Pertinent Questions and Luxury, An Effort and a Strategy.

You also bring in a couple of esteemed wine writers like Roger Voss, from Wine Enthusiast, and James Suckling to add some pizzazz.

Photo by Fotini Stephen.

One of the many vineyards stretching through the undulating hillsides of Oporto.
Photo by Fotini Stephen.

Yes, and you do pour some wines which, in this case, were some 20 Ports from the 1970’s over a 90-minute period after lunch. I will not bore you with the scores other than to ask, “What writer could ever afford to conduct a tasting of such gems?” Some bottles cost hundreds of Euros.

To top this off, after the 1970’s tasting, you then have invited producers pour all manner of Port and table wines for the journalists.

Keeping journalists happy is crucial in the wine industry as they are the mouthpiece of your product. Journalists are also people and appreciate the opportunity to renew, and make new, relationships. Having a relationship with a wine writer may make that writer a bit more willing to review your product.

Would you rather deal with a stranger or a friend?

For example, each producer was assigned a specific table at lunch where only their wines were poured, while their representatives further explained the wines and got to know new journalists or renewed ties with existing contacts.

Photo by Robert Stephen.

There was no shortage of tastings available during Port Day in Oporto.
Photo by Robert Stephen.

I was lucky enough to meet up with some old friends and make some new ones from Sogevinus Winery, which has had brands in existence since 1638. We tried four wines during our lunch, running the gamut from white and red table wines to a stunning Kopke White 30 year-old Port.

Full of huge orange marmalade with little edges of bacon on the palate, and a delicious aroma or marmalade and quince. A killer combination with the crepes in an orange sauce. After such an incredible Port one felt like just ending the day.

The relationship building continued with some 13 restaurants in the Oporto area celebrating Port Day for a lavish dinner, very carefully attended by a particular winery as host.

And to top off the relationship building, a bus trip to the Douro Valley on September 11, where a visit was made to the iconic Quinta Bomfim, owned by the Symington family and worked now by the 4th generation.

A wonderful tasting then a private lunch in Symington’s backyard, overlooking the Douro Valley.

So good was the lunch, and so relaxed were the journalists, that none wanted to leave the view and the warm sun. It was then off to Quinta la Rosa for yet another tasting and tour.

Now, one must remark that producing a tremendous wine means nothing if no one is drinking it. Wine writers are not the only way your wine will be consumed, but they are an important conduit which Portugal and the EU definitely seem to realize in their marketing strategy and funding.

Photo by Fotini Stephen.

In addition to the various ports provided for tasting, table wines were also part of Port Day.
Photo by Fotini Stephen.

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About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)
Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write." Email Robert Stephen