Weekly Interview: Luis Pato

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 02-24-2017

Luis Pato

Luis Pato

Each week, as our regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we are featuring Luis Pato, the famed Portugese winemaker at the eponymous Luis Pato Winery.

The Pato family has been making wine at Quinta do Ribeirinho since at least the eighteenth century.

Luis was born and raised in Portugal, though in several different parts of the country, from Coimbra, to Alentejo, to Lison. After serving in the Navy, Luis was a teacher, until he joined the family business. As you likely know, Luis Pato’s wines have been leading the surge in interest in, and quality of, Portugese wines. Luis continues to invent and to reinvent, making his first single-vineyard sparking wine in 2008, Baga sparking wines in 2010, and so on.

Check out the interview below the fold!


Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Coimbra until I was about 10 years old, when I moved to a little town in Alentejo (AVIS). I later moved back to Coimbra for University, finishing my studies in Lisbon. After school, I joined the Navy until the Portuguese revolution, and then joined the ceramic factory, where my wife had a sharehold.

When and how did you get into wine?
I was a teacher until 1984, when I moved into the winemaking business full time. I got involved as a result of my family’s heritage.

What has been your career path to where you are?
It has been full of experiments, trial, and error. Every year, I tried a new method to improve the outcome – a real learning process, and I am not an oenologist by training!

In your view, what makes your vineyards special?
We are most well known for producing rare and uncommon grape varieties that are not often found, even in Portugal. For our reds, the BAGA grape variety is the most special, and for the whites, the Maria Gomes, Cercial, Bical and Sercialinho.

What is your general winemaking philosophy?
Concentration and maintaining the elegance – a big part of this is never allowing alcohol above 13%! Also, I love to make wines with great aging ability (25+ years), but enjoyable also when young.

What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?
To think of what I can create that has not yet been made! I make dessert wine from early harvest, red wine from white grapes, orange wine made with the red grape BAGA… But what is the next big thing?

Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?
Emile Peynaud and Alberto Vilhena for making fantastic wines, whites and reds from the Dão, and José dos Santos, the former manager of Bussaco wines.

What new winemakers are you most excited about, and why?
I am not a new winemaker, having just finished the 33rd harvest of my lifetime, but what impresses me about new winemakers is the knowledge evolution, because I like to always push myself.

What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?
Burgundy and Champagne. My wine region has a lot of similarities with these regions, because we have the same chalky clay soil, though we have a hotter climate than Champagne. We also have the Atlantic Ocean that keeps the natural acidity in our grapes and, similar to Burgundy, we focus on only one red grape variety. These are the two regions outside of my own are that I use as reference.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?
DRC Richebourg 1985 for reds, Domaine Leflaive Pouligny Montrachet 1992 for whites, Krug 1949 for Champagne.

What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?
Luis Pato 1980 is the oldest of my wines. The most expensive vintage is 1963 Nacional from QUINTA do NOVAL, but Chateau Margaux 2000 isn’t too shabby!

What’s open in your kitchen right now?
Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Red 1988.

If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?
Vinhas Velhas 1995 for a red and 2000 Vinha Formal for white.

Is beer ever better than wine?
Yes, as a palate cleanser after tasting wine, of course!

How do you spend your days off?
Relaxing, traveling… It depends on the mood and plans.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
I am a Portuguese man who loves to define a strategy for years… The last one started 37 years ago, to put my region, and especially the BAGA grape variety on the world wine map. We are seeing the BAGA grape spreading the region’s name around the world! It’s very exciting.

If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?
Maybe working behind a desk in Lisbon using my Chemical Engeneering training in government or in the private sector.

How do you define success?
To do what is unexpected and make it world-renowned!

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