Welcome back to Expat in Lisbon and today we are going to talk about wines! I was fortunate enough to meet with a Portuguese family that has been running a winery in the Bordeaux region of France for almost three centuries. I sat down with Joaquim, the proprietor of the brand, and I asked him a few things about their wines and their heritage, and I what I learned about their history fascinated me. Read on.
EIN: So, tell us about the name, Grands Vins des Chateaux.
Joaquim: Well, Grands Vins des Chateaux is really a true Portuguese story, believe it or not. The name sounds French, and it is, being from the Bordeaux region. My family, the Licos, always had a passion for winemaking. It goes back to the 16th century when we were already active in the agricultural business in Portugal, and later we expanded our enterprise throughout Europe.
EIN: So, I understand that you recently opened up a headquarters here in Lisbon. Why Portugal?
Joaquim: In Chiado, every doorstep, whether big or small, has a unique story behind it. And the Grands Vins des Chateaux headquarters, located in the heart of Lisbon, allows us to to really connect with the city. Our French name is synonymous with the best Bordeaux wines pioneered by a Portuguese family.
EIN: Tell me a bit about the history of Grands Vins des Chateaux and your family, the Licos.
Joaquim: My ancestors purchased their first property in 1648 in Bordeaux, seeing the potentials of this rich land. They established their vineyards there and produced wine which they sold in bulk, refining their art of winemaking over the course of a century as their business flourished. Here, let me show you something.
EIN: What is it?
Joaquim: This is the original Grands Vins des Chateaux property purchase agreements in 1648.
EIN: Wow, very cool. So this is what a contract looked like in the 17th century?
Joaquim: Yes, exactly, and later, in 1816, we purchased a property with wine cellars – Chateau Fontaubert – where we came up with successful bottling methods. Grands Vins des Chateaux’s production was transformed from bulk production to bottled wine.
EIN: Very interesting, and what bottled wines do you offer today?
Joaquim: Ok, so this is what we have today: Chateau Fontaubert, Chateau du Lucat, Chateau Lorient and Chateau Le Grand Branda – beautiful bottles of Bordeaux red wines produced by a real Portuguese family. You know in French we have this word terroir - which means “sense of place” – but you really have to say it like in French. It’s more than that actually, its a whole climate, a region, and everything there in the environment that affects the grapes. We love our land and it continues to produce amazing wines for us.
EIN: So, tell me about the logo you guys chose. How is it representative of Grands Vins des Chateaux and your winemaking history?
Joaquim: Well we chose the image of a lion with two keys as our symbol and this is for many reasons. The lion is our guardian of our winemaking tradition. We have many winemaking secrets and processes and the lion is there to protect them, holding the keys to the archive of knowledge that my family, the Licos, have passed down from generation to generation.
EIN: I really like the logo, I think it’s very eye catching and conveys a sense of tradition. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Joaquim: Yes, I think you might find this interesting. I recently found this old photo of my grandfather, Mr. José Lico, meeting the King of Thailand in 1960 on Avenida Duque d’Avila in Lisbon.
EIN: So, if someone wanted to get more information about your wines, where should they go?
EIN: Well Joaquim, thanks for your time and sharing your story with me.
Joaquim: Thank you.