Golfers vs. Wine Makers
By, Robin Jay
Fine wine and pristine golf links. In Europe, both have been woven into the cultural fabric for centuries. But the pairing of golf and wine made history this year in an unusual, unprecedented tee off: ViniPortugal challenged three golf pros from the Ladies European Tour (LET) and three lady winemakers to meet each other’s worlds – both on the golf course and in the vineyard. The idea was to create a positive association between golf and wine. A fine union indeed.
Golfers Daniela Holmquist from Sweden, Holly Emma Aitchison from England and Marion Ricadeau from France flew to Portugal and swapped experiences with winemakers Martta Simões, Sandra Tavares da Silva and Susana Esteban.
Golf from a Winemaker’s Perspective
Portugal is a serene country with vineyards that produce intensely flavored wines and an ideal climate and contiguity to the ocean that makes for a breathtaking golf experience. During the ViniPortugal challenge, golfers taught the winemakers a few rules of engagement for the sport and then, together, they hit the links. The lady winemakers gave it their best shot on the putting greens and bunkers – and all three agreed the game of golf is “quite demanding!” Here’s what the winemakers had to say:
Martta Simões: “The similarity with golf is that you have to practice and [with wine] we have to taste a lot and a lot,” said Martta, with a grin, from the winemaker’s team.
Martta, whose grandfarther was a farmer, practically grew up on a vineyard. “Every year in September, since as long as I can remember, I would participate in the grape harvest. My dad became a founding member of Confraria dos Enófilos da Estremadura (Wine Society of Estremadura). With all of this, at 16, I knew my only option was a degree in oenology – the study of winemaking.”
In Portugal, Martta works in the Tejo Wine Region. “The Tejo region has been known for producing wine since the Middle Ages, with large-scale exports to England in the 13th century. The river separates the land in three different areas of wine production: Bairro, Charneca and Leziria. This allows us to play with them when we are conceiving a wine, either going for a fruitier, softer wine or a strong and complex one. We have very hot summers, which translates into wines with good maturations, but also cold nights during the vintage time to preserve the acidity that is much needed to have fresh wines.”
Simões’ favorite wine – Marquesa de Alorna White and Red. “These two wines are a tribute to a great Portuguese woman, a very important person in Portuguese history! She was a poet, a painter and very influent in politics in the 18th century. The estate where I work holds her family’s name, Quinta da Alorna.”
Sandra Tavares Da Silva: “The most amazing part was to discover how golf and wine are so close and similar. We both have to be persistent and never give up! We need to be very concentrated and focused in both areas. It’s also funny to realize both love nature and both depend on it,” she said. “It was great to meet three great golf players and see the passion they have for golf. It’s exactly the same we have for wine!”
ViniPortugal calls Tavares one of the most brilliant winemakers in Portugal, responsible for some of the most internationally awarded Portuguese wines. In 2009, she was given the highest score for a Portuguese wine, with 95 points.
“For me, it was a natural decision [to become a winemaker], as my parents own a property in the Lisbon Wine Region, called “Quinta de Chocapalha,” Tavares said. “I was lucky to have inherited amazing old vines. Every plot has a personality of its own… And this is what we like to show – the character and diversity of old, single vineyards. We make very balanced wines with complexity, concentration and elegance.”
Tavares’ favorite wine – Pintas Douro Red. “It’s from a single vineyard, a wine made from 80-year-old vines, a field blend of over 30 different grape varieties, fermented in presses and aged for 20 months in French oak barrels. It´s a special wine with lots of personality, it has a vibrant nose, beautiful fruit and a very long finish.”
Susana Esteban: Susana relished the chance to try her hand at golf. “I think the biggest similarity is that, in both cases, it takes a lot of dedication and persistence to get good results. In both cases, we are in direct contact with nature. That’s priceless!”
Spanish by birth but self-proclaimed Portuguese at heart, Esteban earned a degree in chemistry and a master’s in viticulture and oenology in Rioja, Spain. “I fell so deeply in love with wines when I was 18 that I started working in wineries during the harvest season.”
Esteban was awarded a scholarship to intern in the European Union country of her choice. She selected the Douro Valley in Portugal.“I was very interested in Port at the beginning. I also fell in love with Douro Wine.”
Esteban’s favorite wine – Procura 2011. For two years, Esteban toured through Alentejo in search of the best vineyards. She selected grapes from a combination of two special low-production vineyards — near Evora and Portalegre — with rich soils and cooler temperatures. Procura offers a bouquet with “unusual freshness and complexity.”
Wine Tasting from a Golfer’s Perspective
Daniela Holmquist: “I’m really surprised because I haven’t had that many Portuguese wines in my life at all. I think they are all very good,” said Holmquist, who is based in Stockholm.
Holmquist has an impressive golf record. She earned a runner-up finish in the 2012 Ladies Norwegian Golf Challenge, and winning finishes at the SAS Masters Volkswagen Open in 2009, the Skyways Open and The Chrysanthemum in 2008. In 2013, she has played full time in the Ladies European Tour.
Holly Emma Aitchison: “I’ve never been at a wine tasting before, and I’ve decided that I loved it!” said Aitchison. “I know I made it this far on my own, which is a very, very amazing thing. So I know exactly how these ladies feel about their wines, as well.”
Holly started playing golf when she was 11. The Bedford, England native is a member of the Bedfordshire Golf Club, winning the County Championship on three occasions. She joined the Ladies European Tour in 2009.
“My dad played golf for ages, since I was born. When my brother started, I decided that I wanted to beat him and that’s the only reason I started playing! To beat my brother!” laughed Aitchison.
Marion Ricordeau: “I’m French, so I thought the only good place to make wine was France. Now I realize that Portugal is a very good country for wine, and I loved it!” said Ricordeau. “I thought we had almost nothing in common before coming [to meet the winemakers], and now I realize that we are really similar in different ways, but that’s a good thing.”
As for golf, Marion says sports and her competitive spirit go hand in hand. She aspires to play one day at the Evian Masters, U.S. Open and British Open.
Vini Portugal is an avid sponsor of the Ladies European Tour – a great way to spread the word about Portugal’s winemaking revolution. Without abandoning tradition, the world-class winemakers in Portugal have eagerly adapted to modern technology and insist on strict quality control standards. With an exceptional assortment of indigenous grape varietals, the winemakers produce modern wines with “incomparable Portuguese character.”