Maria Lourenço

Maria Lourenço

Murganheira (Direcção de Enología)

Her exuberance for the vineyards and what they produce serve as her guide.

Marta Lourenço is the dynamic Direcção de Enología of Murganheira, a well-known producer of sparkling wines. The winery is located in Távora-Varosa, a small, mountainous DOC wine region at the northern edge of Beira, which is between the wine regions of Douro to the north and Dão to the south.

Marta's dream was to become an occupational therapist. After volunteering in this field for a few years in schools, she decided it was not a good fit. She instead turned her considerable talents and energy to engineering and agronomy, and the study of food production at the Agrarian School of Santarém. She well recalls the life-changing conversation with a teacher in her program who suggested she do a harvest: “Why do vegetables? You have the talent for wine.” She recalls saying in response, “I grew up in the small mountain village of Alqueve. I do not know wine!”

Marta trusted the advice of her teacher, whom she admired, and worked two harvests. This led to her decision to study in Spain for a year to get a broader experience with wine. Her father, who had always given her room to do what she wanted to do and trusted her judgment, was supportive of this decision. When she returned in 2008, Marta accepted a position as assistant winemaker at Murganheira. That same year she and her boyfriend of three years married. They now have two children, ages 6 and 3. He is “a big-hearted husband” who does his fair share at home. He also works at the winery.

Two years later, the main proprietor and winemaker at Murganheira retired. He appointed Marta as the Direcção de Enología for Murganheira and its two sister wineries, Tapada do Chaves and Raposeira. It is a huge job, and one that Marta totally and enthusiastically embraces. The three companies combined have 21 labels and 41 different varietals!

Working as a Young Woman Winemaker. Marta said that it was very hard at the beginning. “It was clear that the men did not want me here.” Marta coped by pretending that the comments and negative attitude did not bother her. Although she acted as if she was letting the comments roll off her back, it was a painful time. She felt more of a negative attitude here than in Spain or when she was in school, and attributed this difference to being in the north of Portugal where customs are more traditional.

An important source of support and learning for Marta comes from other young winemakers in the Douro. Once a month, the group meets to have dinner and taste each other's wine, with each person showing up with two bottles of wine. Marta finds the experience “amazing” and loves the camaraderie and feedback.

Support and learning also comes from new interns. Every year Marta hires two of them, one woman and one man, with one being from Portugal and the other from another country. She finds that having students from other countries brings new ideas, and hiring both a female and a male helps to change traditional views.

The Sparkling and Douro Wines. Marta graciously provided us with a tour of the winery. We first descended by elevator to the caves, which are carved from the solid blue granite that underlies the site; the caves are over 200 feet below ground level. There, we saw large barrels holding thousands of liters of wine and tens of thousands of bottles of sparkling wine undergoing the aging process. Although some of the bottles are gently turned by hand in the traditional methode champenoise style, for others the technique involves removing the bottles from the rack once each year and vigorously shaking them before returning them to the rack for further aging; a skilled worker can perform this operation on over 10,000 bottles a day! Our arms ached with the thought.

Her sparkling wines are produced from noble grape varieties such as Malvasia Fina and Touriga Nacional. The still wines are generally light in body but intense in flavor. A notable characteristic of the wines is their acidity, which is a result of the vines being grown in soil having a very low pH near 3; the pH reflects the highly granitic nature of the soil.

Following the tour we moved to the handsome modern tasting room, built in 2008, and enjoyed several excellent sparkling and still wines there. These included our favorite, the delicious Murganheira 2007 Vintage Bruto, which received a gold medal in 2015 for this vintage, the 2013 Unico Bruto and 2008 Chardonnay Bruto made from grapes sourced from the Hotel Rural Casa dos Viscondes da Várzea where we were staying, and the Tapada do Chaves 2010 Reserva Tinto, made from fruit from the oldest vineyards in Portugal. To our pleasant surprise, Marta then sent us home with several gift bottles of sparkling wines!