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Port Wine: On the corner of Rua da Bica and Regent Street

By: Gabriel Troiano & Patricia Ferraz

Do you like wines? Then this article is for you! And if you don't like them, but you like to understand how brands enter our lives and the stories of the places where we live, it's also for you. And, even more so, if you were in doubt about what united Portugal and the United Kingdom, the answer is Port wine!

We start with the history of Port wine itself. Perhaps the most interesting part of this great story that we are going to tell you is the fact that grapes have been planted in Portugal since antiquity. The Romans who arrived in Portugal in the 2nd century BC, and lived there for over 500 years, cultivated vines and made wine on the banks of the Douro River, where Port wine is produced today. However, in 1386, with the Treaty of Windsor and, in 1654, with the Anglo-Portuguese commercial treaty, the English and Scottish merchants who came to live in Portugal gained more freedom to build alliances between the two places, alliances that were fortified through the import of wool and cotton and the export of what is now known as Port wine. These events make Port wine a unique product and only produced in Portugal, but being also a British tradition.

The authorship of the port wine 'recipe' is a controversial subject and brings a feud between nations! On the one hand, the British say that they were the creators, when they added brandy to the wine so that it would not go sour, and, on the other hand, we have the history with the Portuguese who already produced and stored Port wine in this way to preserve it for longer. But, regardless of the true author, there are several Port wine houses recognized and founded mostly by the British.

And, of course, we cannot fail to mention some brands. We chose three to talk about here: two English and one Portuguese. These are brands that you may have already seen in supermarkets or restaurants: Graham’s and Taylor’s, which were created by British entrepreneurs and visionaries, and Ferreira, which reportedly is the only 100% Portuguese Port wine house!

Graham's, for example, is a brand that tells the story of two families of Scottish origin: the Grahams and the Symingtons. The company was founded by two brothers, William and John Graham, in 1820, but it was the acquisition of Quinta dos Malvedos and the construction of Graham’s Lodge in Gaia, in 1890, that really made the brand explode. What's more, in 1882, Andrew James Symington sailed from Scotland to Porto to work with the Graham family, thus beginning the partnership between the families. Finally, in 1970, Andrew Symington's grandchildren took over the company when it was up for sale, and ever since, the family has built and nurtured the reputation of these Port wines, which are so beloved around the world.

The Graham’s brand story goes beyond a simple collaboration between families. It represents the connection between two places that are so different, but in this case, perfectly align to create an incredibly pleasurable product. We don't know many brands that have such a strong, doubly patriotic link. Graham's originates from the British mind, and comes to life through the Portuguese joie de vivre. It is a very special case, a lesson in Branding and in knowing, above all, how to maintain the Portuguese spirit of the Porto region, without losing its British origins.

The Taylor's brand also followed the same path. The history of the product begins in 1692, with the arrival of the English trader, Job Bearsley, in Portugal. After marketing the “red wine of Portugal” in the Minho region, his eldest son, Peter Bearsley, was one of the first to cross the Serra do Marão, a mountainous and inhospitable terrain that separates the coast from the Douro region. As many at the time only bought and did business in this region through intermediaries, Peter facilitated the stay of the English in the Douro. Peter's sons, most notably Bartholomew Bearsley, were also the first exporters to buy property in the Douro, a feat that developed the relationship between merchants and farmers in the region. After the "Bearsley years," the culture and tradition of Taylor's wine was passed from generation to generation, expanding the business and perfecting its main selling point: the grapes.

Finally, we have Ferreira, a Portuguese brand that was founded in 1751, therefore, today, completing more than 270 years of history. The Ferreira da Régua family was responsible for producing and marketing their Port wines, growing significantly in the 18th century. From that period, they began to invest in higher quality wines by buying and growing them in some of the main Douro estates. This growth continued in the 19th century with Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira (direct descendant of the Ferreira family). It was because of her that the brand ascended to a new level, driven by her business vocations, investing in new and better vineyards and refining the production process, which included a new approach to aging and maintenance of wine stocks. Dona Antónia's humanist and entrepreneurial profile is what inspires this wine house to constantly evolve, while cultivating, at the same time, the pride of having a purely Portuguese origin.

How wonderful it is for us to tell these stories of brands that unite the two places we live in today and that push the boundaries of language, culture and rivalries!

Telling all of this, we have two main points that are perhaps the most important and that illuminate our work in Branding: first, these brands, like many in the wine sector, are the result of the collaboration between families, they are part of family businesses; and second, they represent a symbolic movement that the grapes and wineries themselves make–an adaptation, year after year, season after season, to grow from challenges and blossom to become even stronger and long-living products. This second point is also closely linked to the idea of a topic we talk about a lot here at TroianoBranding, about how some brands thrive and know how to deal with the passage of time, while others end up dissipating, getting lost in the market. We explore this topic in more depth below.

Jaime and Cecília Troiano always remind us how much family businesses, whether Brazilian or foreign, tend to take an almost religious care with their reason for being in society and transform their brand into a kind of family coat of arms. It is this passion and dedication to the product that moves many wineries, companies and winemakers to be managed by families. In a way, the proximity that exists between the leaders of brands such as Ferreira, Graham’s and Taylor’s greatly facilitates the passing on of the company’s values from generation to generation. And a product like Port wine needs this tradition, because the story behind the brand is almost as important as the quality of the product. In a world with increasingly liquid relationships, feelings and meanings, as Zygmunt Bauman says, the spirit of family businesses works almost like an antidote, breaking the patterns of superficiality by offering consumers a brand narrative that is much more authentic and rooted in human dimensions.

In companies where these characteristics are not evident, the dissemination of the love of wines to other countries and peoples would certainly be more difficult, more forced. People can only be won over through a genuine reason for the brand's existence. Outside of that, everything comes out very mechanical and industrialized. And also, the passage of time is cruel for everyone, but it is kinder for brands and companies that manage to reinvent themselves year after year, without losing sight of their essence.

Anyway, we chose this theme because it unites the nations we live in today and because we understand that brands that have a soul and that are cared for with dedication, like wine, don't have an expiration date–they only improve with time.


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