Each week, as our regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we are featuring Pedro Tamagnini, the winemaker at Quinta dos Avidagos.
The vineyards of Quinta dos Avidagos go back four centuries — almost a whole century before American independence — and those vineyards have been in Pedro’s family for generations. Pedro joined the family business in 2004 after playing rubgy professionally in New Hampshire and working in tourism in Lisbon. What an interesting career path.
Check out the interview below the fold!
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Lisbon, and raised around the Lisbon area. I am currently living in Porto, the second biggest city in Portugal after Lisbon.
When and how did you get into wine?
I was invited to be part of the family project at the end of 2004. Quinta Dos Avidagos belongs to my family and we have vineyards for almost 400 years (since 1685), but only very recently we decided to make our own wines.
What has been your career path to where you are?
I used to work in tourism in Lisbon, so I was already involved in promoting Portugal.
In your view, what makes your vineyards special?
I think the way we take care of them all year long and year after year, as reflected in the quality and vitality of the grapes. For us, it’s personal – we see this as our private, yet big family garden.
What is your general winemaking philosophy?
We want to put our best foot forward and show our strength, and that is in the use of blends of our native grapes. This is our history and tradition, and we want to respect that.
What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?
The challenge of being able to understand nature, and to see what we can do with the grapes we are given to work with.
Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?
Cristiano Vanzeller, for the passion he shows for the Douro Region, and Rui Reguinga for making great wines throughout Portugal.
What new winemakers are you most excited about, and why?
Antonio Maçanita. He shows character and determination all around – an exiting winemaker to look out for!
What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?
I like the wines coming from Mendonza and wines from Oregon.
What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?
The most interesting was a Japanese Chardonnay from Azumino Winery.
What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?
I’m not overly interested in expensive wines, but a Port wine is the oldest I have from around 1848.
What’s open in your kitchen right now?
White wines from the Douro’s 2015 vintage. I am working on how to improve our Quinta dos Avidagos Reserva 2016, and I need to learn from other wines to see what makes them special. Conceito White is one of them, as well as Quinta do Vallado Reserva 2015.
If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?
How about a rose? Well, the same wine every day and night would have to be fresh. For white, I could go for something from the Vinho Verde Region, like the Covela White. For red, I would have to choose my Quinta dos Avidagos Reserva!
Is beer ever better than wine?
Hell yes, it is! When we finish a day of tastings or an event, nothing is better then a beer to cleanse the palate.
How do you spend your days off?
I like nature and playing sports.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
That I used to be an international rugby player, and spent a year playing professionally in Manchester, New Hampshire. Amoskeag Rugby was the club I was proud to represent there. I made great friends for life.
If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?
Something in the tourism area. Both complement each other.
How do you define success?
By the number of people you reach. By the number of people that come back to you and say they enjoyed your wine on a special occasion. Perhaps they tasted it without knowing and they loved it.