Lagoa council dives headlong into embarrassing wine-making row

A bitter row has erupted over Lagoa’s decision to register the trademark ‘Lagoa Capital dos Vinhos do Algarve’ (Lagoa, Algarve Wine Capital). Winemakers, connoisseurs and several mayors are outraged, claiming that other boroughs are “just as worthy” of the title. Lagoa council says it is simply a marketing strategy and that it is “totally surprised” by the resulting furore.

“We were expecting people to understand our logic,” Lagoa councillor Luís Encarnação told the Resident. “What is good for Lagoa is good for the Algarve. It is not just our wines we are promoting with this brand, it is every wine in the Algarve.”

But the Algarve’s wine commission doesn’t see it this way. It is so incensed that it cancelled all partnerships with Lagoa and moved the Algarve’s wine competition to Albufeira – something that essentially means Lagoa may have shot itself in the foot.

Said CVA president Carlos Gracias: “We cannot accept this self-proclamation. There are other wine-making areas in the Algarve that need to be protected and valued.”

CVA says it suggested the title “Algarve Wine Capital” be attributed to a different wine-making borough every year, but that Lagoa “wasn’t interested”.

“They shut the idea down,” said Gracias.

For now, the row is in the hands of Portugal’s Institute of Intellectual Property (IPNI), to which the CVA has made a no-holds-barred complaint.

Meantime, winemakers have agreed that the best way forwards would be for the region to pull together as a whole.

“No municipality should boast the title on its own,” said João Mariano from the Quinta da Penina vineyard in Alvor, Portimão.

“There are so many boroughs in the Algarve that have wineries and produce quality wines. For one of them to claim this title seems like a case of misappropriation.”

Edite Alves from Quinta João Clara in Alcantarilha, Silves, agrees.

“Lagoa has done an excellent job as a winemaking area but I think boroughs should work together and not have an ‘every man for himself’ mentality. Especially as we can all complement each other,” she added.

Sommelier Hermínio Rebelo from the Algarve wine connoisseurs and gastronomy ‘confraria’ (brotherhood) told Jornal Barlavento that it “makes no sense” for Lagoa to call itself the “Algarve Wine Capital”.

“Lagoa’s mayor is totally wrong and the CVA has every reason to be unhappy,” he said.

Portimão, Tavira and Lagos are just as worthy of being “wine capitals”, he added. Now that Lagoa has seized the title, people will think it is “the only place where there is wine”.

Several mayors have also slammed Lagoa’s decision.

“I was not expecting this from Lagoa,” Silves mayoress Rosa Palma told Sulinformação.

“Mayors and producers agreed that we should value the entire Algarve as a wine producing region. There was an agreement that we would earn prestige through the brand ‘Wines of the Algarve’ – not by promoting one borough over the other.”

Portimão mayoress Isilda Gomes described Lagoa’s decision as “absolute nonsense”.

Even Lagoa’s branch of the PSD has criticised the council for being “arrogant and presumptuous”.

But Lagoa remains “totally surprised”, insists councillor Encarnação.

“Silves recently named itself the ‘Capital of Oranges’. Towns are reclaiming titles all the time and I don’t see other places facing the same amount of backlash we are,” he told us, adding “no one wants to steal the spotlight from anybody else. I don’t see how this will negatively affect anyone else in the Algarve’s winemaking sector, it will only bring more attention to our region” – stressing nonetheless that the council will respect whatever decision comes back from IPNI.

“All we are concerned with is continuing to promote our wines. We do not want to fuel a row. We will be hosting the Lagoa Wine Show soon (April 28-30) and expect it to be another huge success.”

Lagoa’s position is being backed by award-winning local winemaker and businessman Karl Heinz Stock, of the Quinta dos Vales estate.

“Personally I think this situation has been blown out of all proportion,” he told us. “It is simply a branding and logo issue.”

In fact, Stock believes Lagoa has “shown a lot of proactivity” in promoting the Algarve’s wines.

“I hope that the CVA and the council soon re-establish contact and find a way to cooperate and continue to promote the region,” he added, stressing that, in the end, that is what everybody wants.

BY MICHAEL BRUXO [email protected]