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Alentejo

World Heritage coupled with the Wine Tourism

I began to idealize what I will describe, only after travelling and seeing some more of the world. It was then that I realized the huge potential that Portugal and Alentejo – Figure No. 29 – have as a factor in their development.

It is difficult for a Portuguese to imagine the value, which the historical heritage present in daily life can bring to Portugal and Alentejo.

A good example is the region of Napa Valley, in the United States of America. Despite this region - the best known in the USA – production of fine wines, this country does not have a historical framework involving the consumer in a special moment, while tasting its wine. In Portugal it is possible.

In an attempt to (re)-create this environment capable of generating impressions on consumers, a well-known wine producer from Napa Valley decided to take history to its consumers and thus convey the message of its production and brand through this new concept. With this goal in mind, and with some investment, he travelled to Tuscany, in Italy, where he bought a castle and took it to Napa Valley.

Although true, this is an almost unreal story for those who, like us, live side by side with this rich cultural-historical heritage. For the Portuguese, castles, fortresses and world heritage cities (UNESCO) are an integral part of their reality.

However, for those who visit us, they are a major asset as distinct elements and that mark the difference. It’s this heritage that we should enhance in the value of our products, capitalizing on it regarding those visiting Portugal, Alentejo; and this, whether through a historical contextualization of what surrounds them, or the creation, for example, of tasting rooms by the wine cellars, in historic urban centres and in some of its monuments. This would be an opportunity to offer consumers an experience in loco of the patrimonial culture and wine.

An example, already in practice in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, in France, where the visitor tastes and enjoy the different wines in medieval houses transformed into tasting rooms.

In Alentejo, currently, there are only units of Wine Tourism created by a group of leading wine cellars, which, linked to environmental, cultural and culinary aspects of the wine-growing region, constituted a factor of animation and diversity of national tourism. 

However, this is an offer ideally addressed to a specialized audience. Therefore of the non-specialized tourism demand should be considered, i.e. not in the group of tourists who seek Alentejo region, attracted by the many existing historic monuments - medieval castles, prehistoric cromeleques, among others - something that is not properly exploited by the wine cellars.

In the opinion of O'Neil Palmer and Chartes (2002) the Wine Tourism – tourism in rural areas connected to the vineyard and wine – is a strong and growing area within the tourism. It establishes, without any doubt, the meeting point with the tourist interested in wines. Or, in other words, it assumes from the outset, the direct contact of the tourist with the wine-growing activities, with the products resulting from these activities and still with all the landscape and architectural heritage related to the culture of the vine and wine production. But also the use of historic urban spaces, which are one of the major tourist attractions, can not only increase the recognition of the region as a producer of wines, but also as a producer of other products, craftsmanship, as one example, among many, the cheese, pastry or cork.

I propose a challenge to the wine cellars of Alentejo, of discovering the consumer when experiencing a family tourism, when he searches and visits what each location has to offer from a cultural, heritage and artistic point of view. This is a good way, through the tasting rooms I have already mentioned, to make the region known, its wines, and the philosophy and services of each wine cellar.

The vast majority of tourists that visit Alentejo and Portugal know that they can buy good quality wines. The question arises for the wine consumer, visiting Portugal for the first time. Does he/she knows how to pick a wine that he/she enjoy without having tasted it? And young consumers who still don't know their taste, that don't recall the name of the wines that have spiked their interest, how will they buy a Portuguese wine without tasting it?

I think Alentejo is ready to continue its huge evolution as wine producing region. I see this region as a "diamond" that has all the necessary conditions, both geographic positioning, product offerings and experiences, to conquer international markets, either when we are visited, either when we represent ourselves.

Many of the leading wine cellars of Alentejo are already present in international markets; and since they bet in the creation of tasting rooms in historic urban centres, they automatically activate a contact with consumers and a national and international recognition. I think the first step should be given by these leading wine cellars, as an example of professionalism and modernization of the wine-producing industry. In the case of small producers, this would be an opportunity to match the best and create, individually or in associations, their tasting rooms for non-specialized tourists.

This is a current marketing strategy in various countries of the so-called "new world wine", where the regions are valued as a whole (the union of all producers), offering consumers the opportunity to taste their wines and get to know better their services. The best example I've met in this field was in the region of Hemel-en-aarde Valley, near Hermanus, in South Africa, where a group of producers has teamed up to create a network of tasting rooms, valuing all the marks in an environment of the wild South African landscape. This region is known for producing good Chardonnay's, Pinot Noir's and also Sauvignon Blanc's; however, it does not have the history of the Alentejo to value their wines. Even without historical marks that give it the secular value, as Portugal and Alentejo (Figure No. 30), this region "build" its own history and so was able to boost an increase in their sales.

The great challenge that we face in the national wine sector concerns the knowledge of the country, the regions, the chaste and own brand value. The tasting rooms, mentioned earlier, can make all the difference in the marketing strategy of our wines.

These regions have a strategy centred on personalization and consumer education, offering outstanding experiences to enhance their brands and motivate sales. Therefore, it is so very important to share the knowledge of the expression of the Portuguese grape varieties, "tell" the history of each brand, explain about how the Blend's are made and give value to the Terroir of each subregion of Alentejo.

In this way, brands travel around the world and retain their value through the conquest of these consumers that will be, in the future, their ambassadors (consumer or professional agent, which promotes a brand, telling its history and making known the value of the brand) in its country of origin. In short, the value of the region will be valued in the national and international market if the network of tasting rooms is created, if the know-how is leveraged, the Savoir Faire of two millennia of history and wine; and if there is a bet on a sales strategy of Portuguese wines in the positioning of their market price.

For those who already know the region of Alentejo, they surely know the Fundação Eugénio de Almeida (Eugénio de Almeida Foundation) and Adega Cartuxa (Cartuxa Wine Cellar), a reference in the region and in the country.

Fundação Eugénio de Almeida

"Fundação Eugénio de Almeida – Figure No. 31 - is a Portuguese private Institution and public utility based in Évora, whose statutory purposes focus in the cultural and educational areas, social and spiritual, aiming for the full, integral and sustainable human development in the region of Évora.

The first phase of the Foundation's life was marked by the personality of Vasco Maria Eugénio de Almeida, great patron and philanthropist, who secured the effective direction of the institution until his death in 1975.

The goals that are statutorily enshrined are materialised, in this period, in rebuilding the Mosteiro da Cartuxa (monastery of the Charterhouse) as a centre of spiritual life, in the construction of the Oratory of St. Joseph oriented to school and professional training of thousands of children; and the creation, in 1964, and maintenance, in collaboration with the Companhia of Jesus (the Jesuit Order) and the ISESE - Instituto Superior Económico e Social de Évora (Évora's Economic and Social Superior Institute) who initiated the restoration of the University of Évora and trained hundreds of private and public office staff and senior administration officials.

From the Decade of 80 of the 20th century, after the return of expropriated property in the period of the Agrarian Reform, the Foundation initiated a phase of assets recovery and created an agricultural and industrial exploitation of reference that aims to ensure the economic sustainability of the institution and the attainment of its purposes, contributing to the promotion of economic and social development of the region. In this project the wine and olive growing, from which results the wines produced in the Adega Cartuxa, among them the emblematic Pêra-Manca and Cartuxa, and olive oil produced at the Lagar Cartuxa (Charterhouse Olive Oil Mill).

The economic and financial consolidation of the Foundation allowed to start, in 2001, a new stage of development of its own projects inside their mission, in addition to strengthening the distribution of subsidies and support for a diverse range of cultural and social institutions in the region. Over the years, the Foundation has offered regular programming initiatives around the dissemination of contemporary art and music, the promotion of knowledge, reflection and debate of ideas, and training. The preservation and enhancement of heritage, as well as the qualification of volunteering have been some of the preferred areas of work of the Foundation at the service of the community. 52 years after its creation, the Foundation continues the work of its Founder, constituting itself as a proactive element of convergence and congregation of efforts for the development of the region.

Source: Fundação Eugénio de Almeida

The Eugenio de Almeida Foundation's heritage consists of a set of rustic properties in the municipality of Évora, and a group of buildings of great historical and cultural interest located in the historic centre of the UNESCO world heritage city of Évora and in Lisbon.

In Évora the Páteo de São Miguel must be noted, an ancient fortified city space, the headquarters of the military order of Saint Benedict of Calatrava and of the General Captaincy of the Town. Its ensemble includes the Paço de São Miguel, one of the most emblematic buildings in the history of the city of Évora and the country, classified as a national monument since 1922; the Ermida de São Miguel (chapel of Saint Michael), Imóvel de Interesse Público (Property of public interest) since 1939; the Collection of Carriages, a museum space that shows the collection of carriages that served the family Eugénio de Almeida; and the Archives and Library Eugénio de Almeida, which encloses the archive bibliographic and the collections of Eugénio de Almeida family. The headquarters of Fundação Eugénio de Almeida are also located here.

Next to the Roman temple, integrated into the set built of the Palácio da Inquisição (Palace of the Inquisition) and of the Casas Pintadas (Painted Houses), lies the Eugénio de Almeida Forum, a space dedicated to the promotion of artistic and cultural actions oriented by social commitment and sustainable practices that bet on a multidisciplinary training and inclusive programming; this is achieved through exhibitions, with a special focus on contemporary art as well as in the organization of performative projects and educational programmes oriented to raise awareness and motivation of the different audiences.

Just 2 km from the historic centre lies the Mosteiro da Cartuxa (monastery of the Charterhouse), which given its proximity, is at the origin of the name of the Adega Cartuxa and the Cartuxa brand. Founded at the end of the sixteenth century to welcome the order of St. Bruno, it was closed in 1834 and integrated into the Fazenda Nacional (National Treasury) heritage, having been acquired 35 years later by the Eugénio de Almeida family. 1960 is the date of reinstallation of the Carthusian monks, following an invitation of the Founder, promoting for this purpose profound works of reconstruction and restoration of the building.

Holder of a vast historical buildings heritage, the Foundation has implemented several interventions for conservation, restoration and regeneration of its buildings.

Source: Fundação Eugénio de Almeida

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