The restless winemaker

on Feb 1, 2012 in Automatic Pilot | No Comments

Diogo Campilho is one of those people who are always on the go. He graduated in oenology at the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro and then went straight from theory to practice in wineries in Australia and New Zealand, where he was involved in harvests, taking on the role of assistant winemaker. During the four years abroad, he consolidated his knowledge, made friends and brought ideas about what he could do on the family estate, Quinta da Lagoalva in the Tejo (Tagus) region. In addition to this, he is a consultant on two winemaking projects in the Alentejo. As if this weren’t enough, he loves cooking, which is why he did a cookery course. A natural athlete, he was a bullfighter for eleven years and currently coaches a rugby team. However, despite all these activities, it was the wine that always won out. Today, aged 32, he is recognised by his peers and it’s a pleasure to hear him talk about vineyards, his winery and his wines so passionately.

How did you become interested in the world of wine?
It always fascinated me. I remember as a kid going to the winery and accompanying a French winemaker who was at Lagoalva. I was fascinated by the way he turned the glass, seeing him taste the wine, the smell of the winery and, above all, the hustle and bustle of harvest time. The tractors arriving, the women’s ranchos (folk dance and music groups), it was a magical atmosphere. The decisions were all taken by just one man who put his nose and mouth in the wine!

I know that you experience abroad in Australia has a major effect on you. It’s noticeable in the profile of your wines?
Yes, but it’s not just Australia. My wines are the result of my experiences and memories. I always try to achieve something new and better. So, I base myself on wines I tasted in Australia, but I always try to complement the two worlds. In words, achieving New World aromas in the wine and European complexity and balance.

Which is the wine that has given you the most pleasure and why?
There have been many, it’s a really tough question. But perhaps I can say my first Late Harvest! We hadn’t done one since 1997, and in 2008 we succeeded. It was a success in terms of wine, but also in terms of the team, because we achieved a goal that wasn’t always possible. The wine is a blend of Riesling and Gewurztraminer grapes.

The Ribatejo winemaking region, which is now called Tejo, has undergone significant change with excellent wines emerging. What is missing in the region to achieve even greater reputation?
This region is like the phoenix that rose from the ashes. We are growing on both a national and international level. We have fantastic winemakers, with a remarkable spirit of unity and mutual help. The CVRT-EC has done an incredible job in publicising the wines and supporting the wine producers to appear together at fairs, wines with the new name Tejo wines. This work has helped consumers recognize the quality of our products.

What do you think about what this new generation of winemakers is doing?

Many of these winemakers have come to the job market with international experience. Things have changed over the years, there is more communication, you can buy wines online from around the world, taste thousands of different wines, there is a lot of information available on the Internet. This means that the new generation can have a more comprehensive view of the market, when they start working and, in this area, we are on an equal footing with the previous generations. On the other hand, there is all the work of the winemaker who, despite all the information available, can only achieve this with years of experience. However, there are various projects by great young winemakers.

What wine would you give your best friend?
A good white, which has incredible aromatic complexity, a mineral palate and is long and engaging. Alongside a pate of cheese!

And your worst enemy?
A good abafado, because it’s sweet, has a goo level of alcohol and, at the right temperature, is addictive. So, after the fifth glass, we would have made up and would be friends, ready to open another bottle!

Which grape varieties do you appreciate most?
In terms of white grapes, Arinto, because it has a fantastic mineral quality that is very delicate and at the same time quite complex. It ages well, gives wine freshness and persistence. For reds, Alfrocheiro, which is a fascinating and unique variety. It’s difficult to work with, because in this region it rarely completes its maturation cycle. But it produces fantastic and unique wines that are intense, vibrant and complex.

por Maria João de Almeida

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