Casa Santos Lima: Portugal's standard-bearer abroad
By Santiago Jimenez - Phtographs: Courtesy of the estates, posted on 02 February 2022
Founded in the late 19th century, Casa Santos Lima is a winery that predominantly exports Portuguese wines. So much so that it is one of Portugal’s largest exporters. After being passed down through five generations, it is now in the capable hands of José Luis Santos Oliveira da Silva, the current CEO, a man who puts his heart and soul into advancing this family-run project.
Casa Santos Lima was founded by Joaquim Santos Lima in the late 19th century, and for many years it exported barrels of wine produced at Quinta da Boavista to countries like Brazil and the United Kingdom.
Since then, five different generations have managed the family business. In the 1990s, the task fell to José Luis Santos Oliveira, who left his career in finance to fully focus on his family’s business. After taking over the company, he launched himself into restructuring the old winery, modernising the equipment, and building new infrastructures and wine cellars.
The same decade also saw several milestones in the company’s development. For example, the most prestigious Portuguese varieties, as well as international varieties (1990-1995) were introduced; the first vintages under the Quinta da Espiga, Quinta das Setencostas and Palha-Canas brands (1996) were bottled and the first 86,000 bottles were shipped to the United Kingdom.
Even now, in the current decade, remarkable progress is still helping the winery maintain its position as one of the most prominent wine exporters. In fact, around 90% of its production is exported, and the wines can be found in over 50 countries across five continents. The United States, Canada and the Scandinavian countries are key markets, though Casa Santos Lima has also been bold enough to introduce its wine to more challenging markets, such as India, Indonesia, Ukraine, and Belarus, where the population does not tend to drink as much wine.
An aerial view of Casa Vila Verde
Several new investments have been made, notably Quinta de Porrais in the Douro region in 2011 (one of the vineyards owned by the legendary Dona Antónia Ferreira); a new winery was created in Quinta da Boavista in the Alenquer region in 2014, followed by another one on the Algarve in 2015. This has been concurrent with further investments into various aspects of the company, all of which have led this group of wineries – centrally managed by José Luis Santos Oliveira da Silva – to become one of the biggest wine exporters in Portugal.
The main winemaking facilities are in the Alenquer region, at Quinta da Boavista, situated about 45 minutes from the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. This location boasts over 500 hectares which are planted with various varieties of grape, both native and international. In fact, there are over 50 different varieties, a feature which is almost exclusive to Casa Santos Lima. In terms of red wine varieties, the company works with Alfrocheiro, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Camarate, Castelão, Malbec, Merlot, Negra Mole, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Preto Martinho, Sousao, Syrah, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Lisboa, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cao, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional. It also works with a fair number of white varieties: Alvarinho, Antao Vaz, Arinto, Avesso, Chardonnay, Códega do Larinho, Encruzado, Fernao Pires, Gewürztraminer, Loureiro, Malvasia Fina, Moscatel, Rabigato, Roupeiro, Sauvignon Blanc, Seara Nova, Trajadura, Verdelho, Viognier, Viosinho and Vital.
A view of the vineyards at Quinta de Porrais
These varieties are grown across 5 different regions, each one with its own soil and climate patterns. Briefly, these regions can be defined as below.
LISBON – ALENQUER:
Here, vineyards are planted on rolling hills. The soil is predominantly comprised of clay and limestone and is gently influenced by the Atlantic Ocean.
ALGARVE – TAVIRA:
Influenced by the Mediterranean climate, vineyards here grow on clay, limestone and slate soils and enjoy a substantial amount of sunshine (more than 3,000 hours a year).
ALENTEJO – BEJA:
In this area, you will find the perfect conditions for growing top-quality grapes. Clay and limestone soils and a continental climate with a Mediterranean influence are a match made in heaven when it comes to producing the very best wines.
DOURO – MURÇA:
Vineyards are planted around 600 metres above sea level in this region. These vineyards previously belonged to Dona Antónia Ferreira… This alone should tell you everything you need to know about the quality of the wines produced here.
VINHOS VERDES – LOUSADA AND PONTE DE LIMA:
The wines that come from this region are crisp with great minerality and are intensely aromatic. The climate is cool and humid due to the influence of the Atlantic Ocean.
Hillside vineyard plantings at Quinta de Porrais
The medley of regions, climates and varieties means that this family-run company can produce all types of wines, from white, red, rosé and sparkling to semi-sparkling and late harvest, in both bottled and boxed wine formats — and all at great value for money. The wines are often considered “best buys” and frequently win awards in various international wine competitions.
In 2017, the company began to develop a programme of activities across the different wineries that allows visitors to indulge in an unforgettable experience. As part of this, they get to know the wines produced by Casa Santos Lima first-hand and, in this way, the wines become a part of their lives to a certain extent. As CEO José Luis Santos Lima Oliveira da Silva once said:
“We want to produce wines that are part of our customers’ daily lives”.
By Santiago Jimenez - Phtographs: Courtesy of the estates
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