Sandra Tavares da Silva

Sandra Tavares da Silva

Wine & Soul (Enóloga/Winemaker & Owner)

“Wine is like sharing, it is for our future, for our children.”

Sandra Tavares da Silva, named as Portugal's “Wine Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2013, appears to be in constant motion! She is the winemaker for Wine & Soul, which she owns with her husband, Jorge Serôdio Borges, and for Quinta de Chocapalha (, her family's winery near Alenquer, which is north of Lisbon. In addition, until recently she was the winemaker and then consulting winemaker for the award-winning Quinta Vale D. Maria.

We met with Sandra at the Wine & Soul winery in Vale de Mendiz, the day after her return from an extensive U.S. trip to promote Douro wines. We were greeted warmly by Sandra and her three lovely children, a son and daughter (twins) and an older son. As we talked, the children played happily, running among the fermenters, lagarde, and barrels, quite at home in the winery.

From the age of 10, Sandra knew she wanted to study agronomy. She had spent many weekends at her grandfather's farming estate outside of Lisbon and had come to love the countryside. She completed all her schooling in Lisbon, including her bachelor's degree in agronomy with a viticulture focus from Instituto Superior de Agronomia in 1998. She then moved to Italy to complete her Master's in Oenology at Holy Heart Catholic University of Piacenza near Milan.

When she returned to Portugal in 1999, Cristiano van Zeller, a friend of the family, said he would help her locate an internship in the Douro. He called everyone he knew, but at the time, no one was interested in hiring a female intern, especially one who had once worked as a model! He then invited Sandra to work as a harvest intern at his winery, Quinta Vale D. Maria in 2000. After harvest, he was so impressed with her work that he offered her a position. She quickly moved up to the position of lead winemaker.

Shortly after she started working at Quinta Vale D. Maria, her parents invited Sandra to work with them as the winemaker for Quinta de Chocapalha in Lisbon, a property they purchased in the 1980s and had significantly improved viticulturally. (Her father is the viticulturist there.) Sandra very much enjoys the challenge of making wines in two very different wine regions.

In 2001, she became involved in a third project, this time with her husband, whom she had married that year. They shared the same dream of creating a winery that would showcase the traditional varietals of the Douro Valley. She spoke with great passion about the meaning behind the name of their winery — “warm and personal wines that symbolize our life.” Their goal is to “create wines with their own identity where vineyards have a decisive role.” Each wine of Wine & Soul is associated with a single vineyard, and its identity is maintained year after year. She also shared with us some of their exciting future plans, one of which is installing a tasting room in the same building as the winery. The tasting room would offer views of their spectacular steeply terraced vineyards.

Working as a Woman Winemaker. When Sandra started as a winemaker in the late 1990s, she was one of the very few women in the field. It was not easy for her at the beginning. She said that she clearly had to prove herself — “let's see what this girl can make?” She thinks this is much less the case today, particularly in smaller wineries that also have an interest in still wines as compared to large Port houses that are more traditional in their views. Currently her two assistant winemakers are both women.

When asked what is needed to be a successful winemaker, Sandra smiled and said, “my father's personality — focused and persistent.” To this, she added passion, being knowledgeable about what is a good product, willingness to work hard, vision, and attention to detail.

Except for hiring a full-time nanny during harvest, Jorge and Sandra balance work and family with the assistance of their cousins who live in the area. Their one rule is that they never travel together, as is the case for many professional couples with children.

The Port and Douro Wines. Wine & Soul makes red and white Douro wines as well as Port. Its Pintas, Character, Guru, and Quinta da Manoella wines have consistently received high ratings, both internationally and within Portugal, including a score of 98 from Wine Spectator for the 2011 Pintas Douro Red. Unfortunately, there was insufficient time to taste these highly regarded wines the Saturday morning we visited. However, we attended the New Douro Tasting the following week in London, and greatly enjoyed the Wine & Soul 2014 and 2015 Douro wines and Vintage Port being poured. We also had the pleasure of meeting Jorge. We were delighted to come home with gift bottles of Manoella Vinho Tinto Douro 2014 and of Guru Vinho Branco 2014.