A beautiful young woman from a wealthy family enters an arranged marriage with the only son of a local merchant. Surprisingly perhaps, they fall in love, and the young lady even shows an interest in commerce. The pair decide to concentrate their efforts on their wine making business, and together they set out to learn the industry from the ground up. Then tragedy strikes. After only six years of marriage, her husband dies unexpectedly, leaving behind a 27-year-old widow with a young daughter to care for. But this lady is made of strong stuff. Instead of giving into her grief she convinces her father-in-law to let her manage the business and goes on to create one of the biggest champagne brands in the world.

It’s a story that has all the ingredients of a modern Hollywood blockbuster, and one that is made even more remarkable by the fact that these events took place over 200 years ago, in a France where bourgeois principles dictated that women stay at home and live their lives in the shadow of their husbands.

The lady in question is of course Barbe- Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, known the world over as La Veuve Clicquot, and creator of the modern style of champagne.

The intervening centuries have seen several notable women winemakers follow in the footsteps of ‘La Grande Dame’. Many of these continue to grace our shelves, among them Theresa Breuer from Germany’s Rheingau, Sicily’s Arianna Occhipinti, Italy’s Elisabetta Foradori and the late Anne-Claude Leflaive of Burgundy’s Domaine Leflaive.

In the heart of Portugal’s Lisboa region winemaker Rita Cardoso Pinto of Quinta do Pinto is creating modern, innovative wines using a blend of local and international wine varieties. This coastal region with its prevailing Atlantic winds and early morning fogs produces fresh, richly textured whites and fruit forward red wines of great structure and complexity. The story goes that the wine produced here two centuries ago was so outstanding that it was worth more than the pinto, the currency at the time, and so the estate got its name.

A management graduate, Rita became a winemaker almost by accident when in the summer of 2006 she decided to help with the harvest on the family estate. She fell in love with the world of wine and went on to complete a Masters degree in viticulture and oenology at the University of Lisbon. Rita’s vision is to nurture the earth to deserve the best it can give, with attention to detail and respect for its distinguishing characteristics and timings.

The wines of Quinta do Pinto reflect this vision and the Vinhas do Lasso Branco, a blend of Arinto and Fernao Pires, is an intense and exuberant white with a mineral touch. It is lively and fresh on the palate with a pleasing roundness.

Vinhas do Lasso Tinto 2012 is a typical Portuguese blend of Aragonez, Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro. It is a dense, dark red colour with aromas of mature red fruit complemented by spices, evolving to vanilla, chocolate and coffee notes. On the palate it is richly flavoured with soft, well structured tannins.

The addition of Viognier to local varieties Arinto, Fernao Pires and Antao Vaz brings a pleasing aromatic quality to Quinta do Pinto Estate Collection Branco 2015.  A wine that is a brilliant yellow citrus colour with fresh and complex aromas, the initial flavours of peach and apricot are supported by a lively acidity and discernible minerality. The finish is long and delicate. An ideal aperitif, this wine also pairs well with lightly spiced fish and chicken dishes.

Quinta do Pinto Estate Collection Tinto 2012 is a complex blend of Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, Syrah and Merlot. Deep garnet in colour with hints of violet, it has intense aromas of blackberry and coconut, all in harmony with spicy notes. On the palate there is a display of delicate fruit that is elegant and round with fine but firm tannins as well as discernible acidity and minerality – a beautifully structured wine. The finish is intense, austere and persistent. 

Sisters Rita and Ana Cardoso Pinto head up the team at Quinto da Pinto.

Export Manager Ana initially studied wine marketing at UC Davis in California and followed this up with intensive wine tasting courses at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley. Determined to introduce these wonderful wines to the rest of the world, Ana’s current mission is to ensure that all the ladies in Ireland enjoy a glass of Quinta do Pinto on International Women’s Day!