New regulations to protect Algarve wine

New regulations to protect and promote the Algarve’s status as a wine region have been announced by Sara Silva, the new president of the Algarve Wine Commission (CVA).

The 34-year-old was voted the new president of the Comissão Vitivinícola do Algarve (CVA) on Wednesday, April 17 during one of the commission’s general assemblies. She officially took over as president a week later after 10 years as the head of CVA’s Quality Management System.

“We want to support the Algarve’s native grapes due to their history and authenticity while also promoting other grapes that are equally significant to the region,” Sara Silva told the Resident.

“The investment in grapes, such as Negra Mole, carried out by the previous board was intense and had very positive results, leading to an increase in their reputation and greater demand for wines made from Algarve grapes,” she explained.

The CVA’s new board is also committed to “recovering the Crato Branco grape which was removed from the inventory of the Institute of Vines and Wines (IVV) at the start of the last decade. It is similar to Negra Mole but white”.

During one of CVA’s latest meetings, the commission also approved the addition of the Moscatel-Galego-Branco, Sangiovese, Verdejo and Pinot Gris grapes to the Algarve’s selection, although the decision is pending a technical review to “justify their inclusion”.

These plans are all about continuing the Algarve’s path towards recognition as one of Portugal’s top wine regions.

“I think we make excellent wines that are on the same level – or even higher – as wines from some other regions,” she said.

“Algarve wines also stand out for being produced in small lots, in which producers try to achieve high quality and closely follow every step of the production process,” Sara Silva explained, adding that the “dedication” that each winemaker puts into their wine also makes a difference.

Another priority during her three-year mandate is to improve the “certification and control” involved in the production of Algarve wines and to increase the number of wines that boast the DOP quality seal, “which has fallen significantly in the last 10 years”.

As she explained, around 275,600 litres of wines produced in the Algarve in 2009/2010 were deemed worthy of a DOP seal while the amount fell to just 38,050 in 2017/2018.

At the moment, the DOP seal is divided into four areas: Lagoa, Lagos, Portimão and Tavira.

Another important move will be the creation of a new ‘Denominação de Origem Algarvia’, bringing together all four areas. This quality seal would be attributed to any regional wine that meets certain criteria.

And while Sara Silva is committed to making sure that all Algarve wines are up to the CVA’s quality standards, she says that the certification process has to be eased so that local wine producers are “stimulated and encouraged”.

Many local winemakers prefer to aim towards an IG (Indicação Geográfica) seal as it allows them to produce more litres (9000) per hectare than the DOP seal (6000).

The new board wants this to change and aims to increase the amount of litres winemakers can produce so that more of them will aim towards a DOP seal.

CVA will also intensify quality controls by monitoring which grapes are being used to produce Algarve wines.

A specialist will be hired to determine how much wine each hectare of vineyard with a DOP or IG seal can produce and whether native Algarve grapes are indeed being used. In other words, the plan is to improve the “traceability” of the winemaking process.

The wine boss has also revealed that the CVA is working on a “strategic plan” to promote Algarve wine throughout the next three years alongside national wine association ViniPortugal.

There are plans for promotional events at restaurants, although the primary goal is to continue taking part in national and international fairs. In 2019, CVA has already participated in ProWein in Germany and Essência do Vinho in Porto and is also considering taking part in Mercado de Vinhos at Lisbon’s Campo Pequeno venue in October.

“A lot of hard work has been put into strengthening the brand and image of Algarve wines throughout these last years, and they are now in fashion. Demand for these wines is already significant at restaurants and at stores. We have to continue working to promote them,” stressed Sara Silva.

The good news extends to the number of regional winemakers that are entering the market. Throughout the last 10 years, CVA has gone from just 16 members to 41. The amount of wine sold has tripled, from 500,000 bottles to 1.5 million, during the latest wine year – a “new record in the Algarve”.

“And our forecasts are for growth, considering the new winemakers who have joined us and the new vines being planted in the region,” concluded Sara Silva.

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Photo: Sara Silva, the new president of the Algarve Wine Commission (CVA).