Sogrape Vinhos is quite definitely a family-run company with a growing presence in the global market as the leading representative of the Portuguese wine industry. Its current position fulfills the mission set out 70 years ago by visionary founder, Fernando van Zeller Guedes, who aimed to „produce and promote quality Portuguese wines to the world, with an emphasis on high-volume brands capable of satisfying the needs of diverse groups of consumers“.
The third generation of the Guedes family now heads the company, under the direction of the founder’s eldest grandson, Dr Salvador Guedes, and takes pride in the fact that they have continued to fulfill, and in many ways even surpass, the optimistic expectations laid down seven decades ago.
And one might well say that optimism played a crucial role in the 1942 foundation of Sogrape Vinhos (then known as Sociedade Comercial dos Vinhos de Mesa de Portugal). The world was, after all, at war, and the only Portuguese wine to have achieved any degree of international success – Port Wine – was experiencing a significant sales crisis, with bottles piling up in cellars as grapes lay unpicked amongst the region’s vineyards. It was a sense of the wine market’s inherent disorder that first stimulated the genius of Fernando van Zeller Guedes, compelling him to approach a group of friends to invest in his dream of turning this abundance of grapes into a distinct type of wine, the antithesis of Port Wine: rosé, light, fresh, spritzy, easy to drink, suited to the tastes of younger generations, women in particular. Thus was born Matéus Rosé, with its strangely squat bottle in the shape of a military flask, set to become the first truly global Portuguese wine brand an extraordinary commercial success in over 125 countries and enjoyed by personalities as distinct as Jimi Hendrix and Queen Elizabeth II.
To consolidate Mateus Rosé’s initial success and leverage the resulting financial gains in favour of the company’s expansion and diversification was the mission undertaken, and entirely fulfilled by, Fernando Guedes. Fernando inherited his love of the land and passion for wine from his father, and became a staunch advocate of the legacy of moral and ethical values passed down to him by Fernando van Zeller Guedes – a legacy which he strives to pass on to younger generations.
"My father was the most extraordinary person I have ever met”, says Fernando Guedes, leader of the second generation to take the company’s helm. Fernando, who joined Sogrape as a cooper’s apprentice in 1952, became one of the first Portuguese winemakers to graduate from Dijon, five years later. It was under the leadership of Fernando Guedes that Sogrape Vinhos consolidated its mission: to make quality Portuguese wines recognised throughout the world; to diversify its production to include all the major Portuguese wineproducing regions and to maintain that all-important balance between a love of tradition and emerging trends and technologies, that conquers the most demanding of juries at the world’s premier international wine competitions. The company has managed to uphold its sustainable growth through the acquisition of new business units and the modernization of existing assets, the consequence of a consistent policy of capital gains re-investment as well as an effective deployment of its own human capital – considered the company’s most important asset.
These guiding principles, with the company’s original values at heart and a special sense of integrity and respect for all stakeholders, were naturally passed on by Fernando Guedes, at the age of 70, to the company’s third generation of leaders, led by Dr Salvador Guedes with the close support of brothers Manuel Pedro and Fernando. This latest leadership, which proudly set to work with the example of a man who, today, at the age of 81, is still passionately involved in the day-to-day development of Sogrape Vinhos. As a result of this successful journey, with its origins in the iconic Mateus Rosé and Fernando van Zeller Guedes’ guiding vision, Sogrape Vinhos now embodies not only a rich family and business history, steeped in values, but also a successful present with the hallmarks of a promising future ahead.
The numbers speak for themselves, with the Sogrape community currently comprising over 950 employees, working for renowned associated companies in all five continents and in the service of brands as prestigious as Mateus Rosé, Offley and Sandeman, with 70% of the company’s production currently exported, to over 125 countries. With over 1400 hectares of premium vineyards in key regions within Portugal, Chile (Los Boldos), Argentina (Finca Flichman), New Zealand (Framingham) and Spain (Lan), Sogrape guarantees its consumers wines which embody the accumulated experience of eminent winemakers, using the most technologically advanced process at wineries certified under the most stringent international regulations. Headquartered in Portugal, Sogrape Vinhos takes pride in its position as the leading specialist in the production of quality wines from the country’s most noble wine-producing regions, producing renowned Port Wines (Sandeman, Offley and Ferreira) as well as some of the most charismatic table wines to hail from the Douro Region (the celebrated Barca Velha, produced by Casa Ferreirinha), Dão Region (Quinta dos Carvalhais), Alentejo (Herdade do Peso) and Vinho Verde Region (Quinta de Azevedo), to name only a few.
“In the 70th year of our company’s history, we are now a player in the global wine market,” summarises Dr Salvador Guedes, president of Sogrape. “But the dreams of our founder still guide us. Every day, we look for ways to improve our business never forgetting the values which have brought us this far. For us, wine is more than just a business. It is a way of life.“