They are changing the way we think about brandy while waging war on an age-old paradigm. What is their secret ingredient?
Over time, even the most ingrained stereotypes can change. While wine used to be run almost exclusively by men, modern Portuguese wines are increasingly recruiting female winemakers. Some won awards and received deserved praise in prestigious media and competitions.
Some stereotypes surrounding brandy live up to this today, either by prejudice, inertia, or lack of information. The name itself can be deceiving. Brandy is often confused with other products with inferior quality.
To challenge assumptions, one thing is mandatory – a thick skin. Even after several years working in the world of wines and brandies, there is one question that Maria Ferreira, PR Manager at Aveleda, keeps hearing: do you really like brandy?
If you had asked her in her student years, she would most likely have answered a resounding “no”. Back then, brandy was seen as an old-fashioned spirit, too intense for a female audience, the choice of “hairy chested man”.
This too is slowly changing. More and more women and new generations are involved in the production process, from viticulture to enology, quality, marketing, logistics, innovation, sales, and wine tourism. Women’s unique know-how and perspective are assets (now) widely recognized.
In some production stages, the presence of women is not only necessary but indispensable. This is something that Maria Ferreira highlights. “Typically, women have a keener sense of smell than men. The musty aroma can have a damaging defect in wine and should be identified as soon as possible. Who better than women to do it?”
With more women involved, brandy has become more widespread. This versatile drink can be enjoyed in its purest form, but also in cocktails and on different occasions. In recent years, some have started to notice a shift in perception towards this drink. “When I go to an event, whether with family or friends, Adega Velha always accompanies me and it is well appreciated.”
The work of people like Isabel Barbosa, Adega Velha’s Senior Brand Manager, contributes a lot to this. “We want to turn these urban myths on their head, showing that brandy can be present in different ways and in different moments of consumption.”
For some, like Maria Ana Gama, Brand Manager at Adega Velha, brandy is part of the moments of relaxation. “Once I had the opportunity to try it as a main ingredient in a cocktail, it became one of my favourite drinks. Tasty, fresh, and light, they work wonders to surprise friends at a sunset or lunch party!”.
What is these women’s secret ingredient? How can you change mindsets about something as deeply rooted as brandy, without losing the roots that make it so special? In part, it is about finding the perfect blend of creativity and discipline, passion and dedication. Knowing how to respect tradition, history, and artisanship, without being afraid to take risks.
It was this combination that most surprised Chantal Guilhonato when she joined the Digital team at Adega Velha. “One of my fondest memories is my first visit to the old winery where Adega Velha ages. Amidst Gregorian chants and French oak barrels, it was easy to experience the alchemy of time. Even after several years, I am still fascinated by this place.”
Now, when she looks at a bottle, she no longer sees just a drink to enjoy in moments of pleasure. “With each sip I think about the passion and time it took to get there. When I look at a bottle of Adega Velha, I see its history, the colour of its creation, the details in everything that surrounds it.”
On the 8th of March, we celebrate the extraordinary role of women leading brandy towards new horizons and opening doors for others to follow their example. At Adega Velha, knowledge and tradition know no age, gender, political or sexual orientation. The stories of Maria Ferreira, Maria Ana Gama, Chantal Guilhonato, and Isabel Barbosa are unique, but at Adega Velha and Aveleda there are many others. On Women’s day, we toast them all – with a glass of Adega Velha!