My importer in UK, the Naked Wines, won - beside a lot of others prizes - the SMARTA 100 Business of the Year award, wich includes a 10.000 £ prize. Generous as only they know how to be, the Naked organized a contest: each winemaker had to say what would do with that money, and the Angels (special Naked clients) had to elect one of us to receive the money.
I proposed to use the money to build a refrigerated room to refrigerate the grapes before puting them in the lagars and I had no chance - I´m a small producer, with a small visibility, new on the Naked... and, for my big surprise, I finished the contest in fourth place - the first one after the first ones. And it sounds to me like a victory. I´m sure the people who voted for my proposal didn´t do it by itself, but because they know that the quality is my single patrimony, and it´s on it I have to invest to survive, being so small in an environment dominated by the big ones.
In fact, Douro is an extreme region - few big companies (mostly, british companies focused on Port wine) surounded by thousands of small grape producers. The medium scale wine producers are rare (Quevedo - God bless him! - is one). The small grape producers are completly dependent on the big companies - they make the harvesting when the big companies demand (normaly, too late, when the grapes are dried and light - they pay by the weight) - the payment is made in tranches - the last one, more then 6 months after the harvesting - and the price is fixed by the buyer, who knows the seller doesn´t have any alternative but to accept it. And some of the best grapes of the world are sell by 0.20 euro/Kg. For you to have an idea about how dramatic the situation is, I knew recently that a neighbour, who has a vine biggest than ours, will give up to treat half of it.
He hasn´t a winery.
We have one and our single chance to survive is to make a great wine - who doesn´t have quantity has to sell quality. That´s what the people who voted on my refrigerated room understood. And for some time, thanks to them, my smallness was my strength.