Visit to Barbeito – Part 2 – Talking to Ricardo Diogo Freitas
Visit to Barbeito
Talking to Ricardo Diogo Freitas
1. (w4p) Tell us why Ricardo Diogo came to the helm of the company. Was it the family call? Weren’t you satisfied with the profession of teacher? It was the necessity?…
(RD) – it was the family call. My mother needed help. There was a company recovery project, and she asked me for help. And I came! Initially it was just for the administrative part,etc… But then, they came to the conclusion that I had aknack for it, and ready!… And so it was.
So you’d like to be a historian, too?
Oh! I always have my little book of History, and my historical novel all the time in my readings. Always!
2. (w4p) Do you think Madeira wine already has the position it deserves in the national and international viral panorama?
(RD) -You got it. In the last 20 years has been done a great recovery work of the image of Madeira wine. Of course the image does not recover, if there is not simultaneously an improvement in the quality of what we do. Today, Madeira Wine has deserved recognition.
3. (w4p) Barbeito is more of a batch wine company (in contrast, e.g.from D’oliveiras), although it also has (obviously) frasues. Is that true? Why?
(RD) – Yes, it’s true. Because batch wine is what gives creativity. And creativity is the most important thing in our lives. If we have any way we do good things. And the batch results from mixtures. That is, creativity and thought. We think and do…always with some risk, of course.
4. (w4p) Barbeito is some what connotation to the Malvasia caste. Why?
(RD) – No, I don’t think so. I think it’s more connotation to the Tinta Negra caste. Because since 1995 I started to risk and, against widespread opinion, we started to do some interesting things from Tinta Negra. I think we’re more connied with black ink right now. Perhaps the most famous may be the Malvasias, but from the point of view of innovation, we are more connoted with Tinta Negra.
5. (w4p) What are the reasons for the correlation between the caste and the type of wine (dry/sweet)? Is it tradition? These are the characteristics of the grape varieties?…
(RD) – It’s tradition! We, by chance, technically speaking, have already been looking for scientific explanations for this, but there is very little written about Madeira wine! And the answer to those questions is practically non existent. It hasmore to do, I think, with tradition. The Sercial gives a good dry wine; But the Verdelho too; and Malvasia too.
6. (w4p) Barbeito is also betting on other “less obvious” castes: TintaNegra, Bastardo… Why? Is it to continue?
(RD) – It’s to go on. There’s no doubt about it. The Tinta Negra bet is abit of my memories. Because everyone said that Tinta Negra didn’t give good wines, and that’s the only good reason to try. Then my grandfather was serving old Tinta Negra, to his guests and friends. And this is a situation that I have in my memory (from 7 or 8 years). Well, if he did, it’s because he was good! He was an extremely demanding person, very strict, and did not serve what was not good to his friends. And I, one day, thought: let’s try it! And I started the process… The bastard had also to do with trying to countermeasure a tendency. For now the Bastardo was extinct. And in 2004, with this viticultor, in a conversation, he said he could arrange, and planted the vineyards of bastard. And why Bastardo? People were all focused and crazy about Terrantez, and I decided to go to the Bastardo. Of course it’s been a tough adventure! Because it’s a harder wine to make. It’s a tough caste.
7. (w4p) Barbeito appeared in force, and along side Blandy’s, it practices the highest prices of Madeira wine. There is eventhis quality gap between these two brands and the other???
(RD) – (laughs) I think the others are too cheap. Then you also need to see the following: Madeira wine has its ageing, we use it, and then we no longer have it. That pays off. And then there’s something else in my case: The job is really great! And the job has to be paid! We are a small company, but we are 22 people working, and everyone wears the sweater. Leven think that our price, is much more to pay well to the people who work with me, than the pursuit of profit. It’s much more of this philosophy.
8. (w4p) Generally speaking, the Barbeito profile is cooler and with vigorous acidity; Blandy’s is of greater untuosity and more caramel. Agree?
(RD) – Agree. Blandy’s wines are sweeter, and the fact that they are sweeter, does not enhance the acidity. When I was little, Iliked to eat lemons. That explains it. (laughs) It is true! My mother scolded me, because I ate them with bark and everything; Cut the slices and ate. And the acidity is Madeira wine! Madeira wine without acidity is not Madeira wine. And then, looking for the purity of the wine, the acidity has to be there. And acidity is synonymous with elegance. In fact, the Barbeito style, before I arrive, has nothing to do with what it is now.
(And we have made this parenthesis to reaffirm that this is exactly why, for identifying ourselves in this style, is that the Barbeito is our partner… and not Blandy’s…)
But Blandy’s has great wines, a style of its own, and they have one thing that I feel is an identity of centuries, or decades…
9. (w4p) Numerical question: How many liters do you produce/year? Caste distribution? Export percentage? What are the main markets?
(RD) – 180,000 liters per year on average. The export percentage is about 85%. The main markets: Japan, USA, Belgium and England. Mainland Portugal also begins to be important. In relation to the grape varieties: Tinta Negra is more than 50%, because the low-range wines are always based on Tinta Negra. But in the last 15-20 years, the interesting thing is the white grape varieties gaining ground in relation to Tinta Negra. Because twenty years ago, it was 80% Tinta Negra… or more.
10. (w4p) The future? Which way? What do you want to do? Have you made your best wine?
(RD) – Hahahaha… Fire… I don’t know if I’ve made my best wine…Let’s see: I never said “This is the best wine I’ve ever made!”. I can say that: “This is the wine I like the most…”. But we never know. Tomorrow I can wake up with an idea, and end up making a wine that still likes more… As for the future, the future is to walk here as we walk now! Always attentive to the wine, give the best of us and never stop risking! If a guy has an idea he thinks might be good, it’s experimenting! It worked great. Some things don’t work out. And there are others that have been made, and that right now, we still don’t know if they’ll work. It’s just like that! The idea is to always be in an innovative spirit.
11. (w4p) And is there an “alternate” project? We talked on a whitetable...
(RD) – This white table only exists as a result of an accident… Let’s see: I’ve always been against what is “DOC Madeirense” wines. There were these Verdelho vineyards… There are four plots, which are between 20-25 years old, and the vineyards were to be abandoned, because men were going to emigrate. And we stayed with the vines. And then, the great criticism that I make to Madeira wines is precisely that viticulture does not give appropriate attention to what is being produced, particularly for white wine. Because in reality, the grapes both give way to Madeira wine and to white wine. And then, the fact that Nuno (Duarte) came here had a lot of influence on this, and we started there to put the vines from 2 -2, 5kg to 600 grams… There were three years of investing… And from the moment it was possible to control the vineyards, it is already possible to make white wine according to what we know for this world outside,namely good wines… Obviously, in this field, we still have alot to go on. It’s an adventure… But it turns out to be “a joke” in the midst of what is our context. It’s a joke, but we have a lot of investment in this…
12. (w4p) How many bottles?
(RD) – More or less 3000 of the current and 2000 of the reserve. Now, let’s see if we win something with this. Notice that last year we had 42 trips to this vineyard. I think a vine grower who has the vineyards outside the house, does not make so many trips to the vineyard…
Finished! As you saw, it was quick! Thank you very much!
Yes, it was fast! Let’s go to lunch…
W4P, 1 September 2018