From the famous Palmela castle, standing atop of the Serra de Arrabida hills, the visitor enjoys a stunning view over the whole region, from the Tejo and Sado estuaries with the cruise ships dedicated to wine tourism up to vast vineyards nestled in the unique landscape. The sandy and humid soil of the region is perfect for viniculture- here you can taste the passion of winemakers who spent their entire lives mastering this craft... Manufactural Journal presents its readers an exceptional wine company - Casa Ermelinda Freitas, growing 29 different wine variaties, expanding in well known wine regions of Douro and Minho and – a winner of many prestigious awards.
Women in Wine Business – the case of Casa Ermelinda Freitas
The company CASA ERMELINDA FREITAS is nowadays a well-known mark. It stands for exceptional, unique quality and success- both nationally and internationally. But how did it happen that a small, family- run business is now a well-known enterprize and a winner of multiple awards? It’s the lifetime of experience that the company brings to the entire winemaking process — from planting the vineyard to bottling and pouring the wine. The wine business of Casa Ermelinda Freitas was established in 1920, in Portugal a period of turmoil and disorder, both politically and economically. Deonilde is the first woman in the family to roll up her sleeves and plant vine. The story continues –the business goes over to her son -Manuel João de Freitas, who dies a few years later leaving the family- run enterprise to his wife, Germana. It is her enterpreneurship and strenth that makes wine cellar grow and develop. After the premature death of Germana‘s son, Manuel, the business once again ends up in the hands of a woman: Ermelinda- the todays‘ chef and the one who gives the casa its name. Ermelinda runs the venture together with her daughter Leonor Freitas, who inherited 60 ha of vineyard. She is already the forth woman to be at the head of the business, consolidating its female profile. Insipired by her mother and grandmother Leonor has introduced a few innovations: she modernized the cellar and invested in the image of the wines. The next investments followed: from establishment of a new wine -making centre to innovations in the process of growing grapes, in viniculture. The company has also passed form selling wine in bulk to selling its own brand, transforming itself into a prestigious, well-known mark. This way a small, family -owned venture that once began by selling wholesale to big producers marked a new beginning. The crucial moment in the development of the company and the biggest step towards its renown has come with the new management and with the creation of brands like Terras do Pó or Quinta da Mimosa. Leonor Freitas, seeking to make improvements, decided also to introduce a much wider range of grape varieties than those already growed (like Castelão and Fernão Pires), including for example: Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, Aragonês, Syrah, and Alicante Bouschet.
The company – priorities & investment plans
On the area of 550 hectares of vineyards grow now over 29 different wine variaties. The location on the Setúbal Peninsula, some 40 kilometers south of Lisbon, is one of the best regions for growing wine, a region with big potential - and also a reason why Casa Ermelinda can produce niche wines of high quality. The now modernised winery is fully equipped with the most up-to-date technology, which -together with other innovations introduced by the management - helps to guarantee quality and competivity- all this can be seen in the quality of the final products. Quality has always been one of the strenghts and at the same time aims of the company - a way to be recognised as a seal of guarantee. Another significant interest of Casa Ermelinda lies in the development of longterm relationships with the suppliers, while being interested in their involvement in producing great quality wine. The company is also faithful and devoted to its customers – it is finally them, who let the venture grow and develop. All of the clients are important, but a very special thank has to be given to the Portuguese living in different parts of the world, who help to popularize and promote Portuguese wines, especially those of Casa Ermelinda Freitas. Today Casa Ermelinda Freitas is a global player, operating at national, regional and international levels. The company understands it as essential to invest in areas that complement its offer and portfolio; one of the last initiatives Casa Ermelinda undertook was the purchase of land areas in the zones of Douro and Minho Rivers. The plan is to enclose this way three big wine regions of Portugal. Wine sector is a branch known for being seasonal, the works depending on necessities, weather conditions and stages of wine production process. CASA ERMELINDA has though a stable core team of pricesely 35 people, who support the ongoing winemaking activities, all of them with professional technical education background. It invests in staff that understands itself as being fully integrated with the company and can identify with its aims and ideals, which is perhaps one of the most significant keys to success.
Casa Emerlinda Freitas and the society - culture and charity
2008 Casa Ermelinda Freitas created an innovation social project: “Life of a Wine” (A Vida de Um Vinho), based on a a rigorous seleccion of the best grapes, that give origin to the unique and exclusive wine. The venture and the production process itself have been accompanied by the presence and active colaboration of the personalities from diferent sectors of the society, including some figures from the Portuguese cultural scene, such as the composer Jorge Salgueiro, the famous painter Mário Rocha and the journalist Amílcar Malhó. Social solidarity has always been one of the crucial topics of the CASA EMERLINDA’S activities - the company takes part in various cultural and charity projects, especially in the regions of its presence. The whole revenue from the campaigns supports various Caritas projects, providing aid for underprivileged children - for example from the Social Union “Rising Sun” (União Social Sol Crescente da Marateca) and reinforcing initiatives for the older ones. The wines of CASA ERMELINDA accompany also the biggest summer festivals, such as: EDP Cool Jazz, GALP Beach Party or Santa Casa Alfama, strengthening the positive impact of the company.
„The best wine in the world“ - achievements & prizes
The title of the world‘s best wine for Casa Ermelinda- Freitas Syrah 2005 from the year 2005, is- although being a great compliment for the whole enterprise -still only one oft the many awards the company got in the long decades of its existence. In the last 20 years it got over 1000 awards on the national and international level. Among the 158 prizes CASA ERMELINDA gained only 2019 we can definitely name: nine Great Gold Medals, eighty eight Gold Medals and forty eight Silver Medals. It also holds the highest award given by the International Federation of Wine and Spirit Journalist and Writers (FIJEV) at the contest Citadelle du Vin in Bordéus, in France. One of the latest achievements is also the prize of the “Europen Producer of the Year“given by the Sommelier Wine Awards (SWA) and The National Agriculture Award in the Category: Enterprises. For her whole work Leonor Freitas was also granted the Order of Merit for Agriculture, Commerce and Industry in 2009.