The foundations of Portugalia Wines (UK), Ltd. go back to 1983 when Mr. António Branco first established a company specializing in the import and marketing of Portuguese products in the UK. The company was called Gexpo and Portuguese wines were, since the beginning, its strongest single area of activity, while at the same time it undertook some export activities, particularly of UK products to Portugal and of foodstuffs to third countries, especially in the African continent.
The listing of Arruda red table wine by J Sainsbury dates from those years. It was the first of many subsequent similar listings of Portuguese cooperative wines by major British retailers and it earned Portuguese wines a lot of respect given the excellent quality of the wine and the modest price tag. The wine was stocked by that supermarket chain for some 15 consecutive years. In the meantime the company established itself firmly as the natural supplier of Portuguese wines to the growing number of Portuguese restaurants and hotels then setting up in the UK and it rapidly became known and respected for the high standard of its wine portfolio.
The company’s activities were growing steadily and the volume of business demanded that decisions be taken with a view to focusing on specific areas. The lack of agreement on the activities to be dropped combined with different levels of commitment by the three partners led to the break-up of Gexpo. António Branco, who was clearly aware of the opportunities opening up to Portuguese wines in the UK market, decided to set off on his own. He called his business Portugalia Services, a name which would become linked with a number of wine-related initiatives in the late eighties. He also took an active interest in Portuguese beers (his business eventually becoming the UK agent for Sagres) and coffee (taking on the UK agency for Delta Cafés). The growing opportunities being presented to António Branco led him to increase his business capacity. He contracted Rui Almeida on a sales role and eventually gave him a shareholding in a new limited company, Portugalia Services Ltd. There was a lot of growth and consolidation in this period, with several more wines added to the company’s portfolio including the first imports of wines from CARMIM, the Cooperative at Reguengos de Monsaraz in the Alentejo.
António Branco’s untimely death (with a heart condition) in November 1992 and Rui Almeida’s subsequent return to Portugal resulted in the dissolution of Portugalia Services Ltd. António Branco’s widow Maria Angelina, well aware of how much had been achieved and how widely known her husband’s wine interests had become, soon decided to give continuity to his legacy. She joined forces with João Pedro, a long-term family friend, and together they established the present company, Portugalia Wines (UK) Ltd, in early 1994. Apart from maintaining all the previous wine, beer and coffee agencies, other names were added to the company’s portfolio, including estates like Quinta da Aveleda and Quinta de Santa Eufémia (an estate port producer), companies like Caves Velhas and another wine cooperative, Cartaxo in the Ribatejo. The company sees itself as very well placed to carry on its business right at the centre of the current growth in the UK’s interest for Portuguese wines and other drinks, being a natural first point of call for prospective customers for such products. Focusing very strongly on product quality and service quality it aims to constantly surpass yesterday’s good with today’s better standards. At the end of 1999, with a view to responding better to market demands, it acquired its own warehousing premises located in an excellent communications point, with very easy access to the main transport routes from London. Five years on, in early 2005, led by the expansion in its core business and by the increased and diversified demands from its clients, the company decided to move into its present larger premises in London’s Park Royal.
Portugalia Wines kindly sponsored the Celebration of Portuguese Language Last sunday 06/05 at the Grande Royale Hotel – Hyde Park
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