Portugal is laser-focused on bringing its versatile and intriguing wines to the world stage. Although highly regarded for their fortified Port production, Portugal’s commitment to wine tourism is disrupting any misconceptions that they only make an after-dinner wine for special occasions.
While men still dominate much of the wine industry, women in Porto’s wine and tourism industry are blazing a path toward a more inclusive future and bringing a fresh perspective to Port’s reputation.
The following four women leverage wine as a catalyst for human connection through their passion for Portuguese culture and their knowledge of Portuguese wine. They’re also demystifying the country’s wine industry so everyone can best explore Portuguese wine for all it offers.
Brand Manager, WOW
As one of Europe’s most significant tourism developments in recent history, WOW – The New Cultural District opened in 2020, costing $117 million. Located south of the Douro River in 300,000 square feet of warehouses once used to store Port wine, WOW welcomes visitors worldwide to discover Porto’s cultural and historical values.
WOW’s brand manager, Maria Delamain, is helping put Porto uniquely on the wine tourism map. As someone who grew up in a Port-making family, Delamain loves helping her team establish an international audience by sharing her history. “The smell of a Port warehouse takes me back to infancy. It is a smell of home for me and brings back memories of visiting the aging warehouses with my grandfather,” says Delamain.
WOW consists of seven interactive museums and 12 restaurants, bars, and cafes, and a wine school for all knowledge levels, collectively allowing tourists to explore the region’s history, art, food, and wine in a uniquely immersive way.
Delamain is excited that visitors to Portugal get to experience great wine as well as get to see the beauty and diversity of the country.
Head Sommelier, WOW
Priscila Haddad moved to Portugal in 2013 for a degree in International Relations, but she also started working at wine events and pursuing certifications in wine education. “We are probably experiencing the best moment of the wine industry in Portugal so far,” she says. “This allows us to access many new things and exchange knowledge about the international industry, but mainly to make Portugal known and place it among the players.”
At the beginning of her wine career, Haddad recalls perceptions about young women in the industry: that they would only hold value as marketing appeal rather than their skills and competence. Today, she feels that Portugal is fortunate to
have several great examples of women being recognized for their knowledge in the profession.
As a result of that growth, Haddad says more women are drinking Port these days, approaching the category with curiosity and a willingness to try new styles. With that, people are also starting to turn their eyes toward Portugal as a destination for wine tourism, particularly given the extensive opportunities to learn and immerse in education at places like WOW. “New things come out every day, and there will always be something we don’t know,” she says, encouraging enthusiasts to embrace learning about wine as an ongoing process.
Wine Director, The Yeatman Hotel
With a microbiology background and a winemaking degree, Elisabete Fernandes has worked in the wine industry since 2007. She gained experience in everything from wine production and distribution to involvement in the cork industry.
In her current role as the wine director for the Yeatman Hotel in Porto, the objective is to showcase the variety and quality of Portuguese wines. In fact, Fernandes now oversees the most complete collection of Portuguese wines in the world, with the hotel’s cellar containing approximately 1,400 references and a total of 30,000 bottles. “What excites me the most about our wine program is to be able to introduce to our international guests the indigenous grape varieties that Portugal has to offer,” says Fernandes. “We don’t have the exact numbers, but from experience, I would say around 80% of guests have their first experience with Portuguese wines at The Yeatman Hotel.”
Regarding managing the hotel’s winery partnerships, Fernandes says that most Portuguese wine businesses are family-run with generations of history. Still, increasingly more women are at the forefront of the wine industry, from owners to winemakers, sales representatives, or sommeliers. “The Port Wine Industry as a whole understands the difficulty of making Port inclusive for all genders and age groups and has made a conscious effort to modernize itself,” says Fernandes.
Workshop Developer, Vinte Vinte Chocolate
Fábia Ribeiro develops workshops for The Chocolate Story at WOW and is responsible for the Vinte Vinte Chocolate Academy, a chocolate training project launching in the future.
“The first (Port) that made an impact on me was for sure a Tawny,” says Ribeiro, reflecting on her earliest experience tasting Port wine. “I remember the warming throat sensation of the cinnamon notes, the sweetness and velvety texture of the wine.”
In her current role at the intersection of wine and chocolate education, Ribeiro thinks there are still many things people don’t know about Port wine. “It is a
world to discover, even for the Portuguese who are culturally used to consuming Port wine,” she says, further explaining that she uses her workshops to demonstrate Port’s versatility through chocolate pairings.
“We can compare the genetic groups of cacao with the wine varieties; the work of the chocolate maker with that of the oenologist; and there are cacao terroirs, just as there are wine terroirs,” Ribeiro says when asked to describe the similarities between chocolate and wine.
Ribeiro is excited about the city’s tourism infrastructure and, with it, additional educational opportunities. She is also inspired by her fellow female wine and chocolate professionals who lead the way for Portugal to continue emerging as a wine tourism destination that balances honoring tradition and innovating with a pioneering spirit.