Institutional

Barão de Vilar is now Van Zeller Wine Collection, S.A.

6/5/2024

TEXT by António Larguesa Founded almost 30 years ago, the sixth largest Port wine company and fifth in the ranking of Douro red wine sales, according to IVDP data for 2023, has just dropped the name that Fernando Luiz van Zeller gave the new project, after the family sold Quinta do Noval to the French insurance company AXA. The original name, Barão de Vilar, took over the title granted by Queen Maria II at the time and is also the original and best-known brand, although others have since been created or bought. It has now given way to the surname of the family that controls the business and is “turning its attention to the national market with a new positioning strategy”. Recovering the surname of a family linked for more than 400 years and for 15 generations to the wine trade and production, Van Zeller Wine Collection is the new corporate identity of the company currently run by brothers Fernando and Álvaro van Zeller - the founder's eldest sons indirectly hold 80% of the capital - and by Rui Correia de Carvalho, who took a 20% stake after joining the project in 2008. It was at this time, coinciding with the arrival of a new partner, that the company stopped producing and selling only Port wine and extended its activity to DOC Douro, which in 2023 already exceeded the volume sales of the original segment.

In terms of value, however, with a “substantially higher” average price per liter than DOC Douro, Port still accounted for 60% of sales of bottled products. Last year, when it sold a total of 2.6 million units (0.75 liters), the former Barão de Vilar recorded a total turnover of around 12 million euros (vs. 10.3 million euros in 2022). “A positive sales performance, in a context in which there were falls in quantity of around 5%,” said partner and director Rui Correia de Carvalho, speaking to ECO: “We feel that there is room and demand in the domestic market to develop our operation, especially in the still wine category, a major focus for the company in recent years.” The UK, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the USA are the main export destinations for the wines, which in the last financial year accounted for 93% of turnover, with the domestic market accounting for just 7%. Since its inception and the fact that its shareholder structure includes a company that acts as a trader in Portuguese wines on international markets, it has always had a “strong export matrix”. However, as the spokesperson says, it has a “new strategy focused on balancing these figures, so it is expected that in the coming years there will be growth in the domestic market”. “Van Zeller Wine Collection's brands are well-established on the international scene and the operating results we've recorded are proof of this. But we feel there is room and demand in the domestic market to develop our operation, especially in the still wine category, a major focus for the company in recent years,” explains Rui Correia de Carvalho. In addition to Barão de Vilar, the company operates the Maynard's, Palmer, ZOM, Vilarissa Valley, Kaputt and Feuerheerd's brands. The latter was the most recent acquisition, bought from the Barros family, who took over the brand after selling the group to Sogevinus, which is owned by Abanca.

After a group of investments in recent years to “build the company's capacity”, including the construction of a new bottling center in Pedroso (Vila Nova de Gaia), new equipment and optimization of production processes and some commercial and marketing actions that are still underway, the northern company, which says it has “short-term sales potential” of over three million bottles sold, is interested in investing in wine tourism: at Quinta do Saião (Vila Nova de Foz Côa) and with a new commercial space next to the warehouse in Pocinho. With two wineries (Vila Flor and Peso da Régua), a bottling and logistics center in Vila Nova de Gaia and activity in three properties in the Upper Douro - Quinta do Saião, Quinta de Zom (Freixo de Espada à Cinta) and Quinta do Tombo (Vale da Vilariça), Van Zeller Wine Collection has a total of 24 hectares for its own wine production and also has around 240 hectares of vines from “loyal” suppliers. And it says it doesn't feel “the need to increase the wine production capacity of its wineries, since through commercial partnerships it has the flexibility to guarantee an adequate supply to meet customer requests”.

And in the present context of consolidation in the sector, are the current shareholders considering selling the business or have they been approached to do so? “We've already had several approaches. However, at the moment, we are completely focused on consolidating and growing our business and our brands. We're keeping a close eye on the transformations taking place in a sector that is going through a phase of concentration, which we think will continue for some time,” says Rui Correia de Carvalho, partner and director of Van Zeller Wine Collection.

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