Nonconformist, disruptive, bold, daring, restless, captivating.
These are some of the adjectives that can define both António Maçanita, winemaker and consultant, and the wines he makes. António Maçanita started in the world of wines in 2000, in the Azores, but it was only in 2004, at the age of 23, that he made his first wine.
Where others see no future, António Maçanita sees a challenge. Take the example of our Branco de Tintas (blanc de noirs), the first bottled in Portugal, an Alentejo statement wine, developed in 2008 when the CVRA decided to allow the purchase of white grapes from outside the region. Another first of note, the Branco de Talha, in 2010, also the first of its kind in Portugal, in the recovery of a winemaking tradition created by the Romans and which has seen an exponential revival in this decade.
However, it is perhaps in the Azores that the revolution is most visible, Azores grapes are now the most sought after in Portugal. It is in the Azores that António Maçanita is fighting to legalise the use of "vinhas de cheiro” - hybrid vines that have been part of the community, culture and religion of the Azorean people for 170 years. As António Maçanita describes them, with visible pride and enthusiasm, "beautiful vines, some more than 150 years old".
In 2018, António Maçanita won both the Winemaker of the Year title from Revista dos Vinhos and the 2018 Uniqueness Award from Grandes Escolhas magazine, and in 2021 Fita Preta Vinhos was producer of the year by Revista de Vinhos. But the winemaker had been winning prizes since his first wine: PRETA 2004 won the Alentejo Trophy at the International Wine Challenge.
Also in 2016, António Maçanita received the Enólogo Geração XXI 10 years 2006-2016 Trophy from the magazine Paixão Pelo Vinho.
In the same year, Revista Wine magazine considered Azores Wine Company a Breakout Producer. In 2016, Azores Wine Company and its three partners won the Project of the Year and Entrepreneurs of the Year awards by the magazine 100 Maiores Empresas dos Açores, from the newspaper Açoriano Oriental - the oldest daily newspaper in Portugal.
Two years later, Revista de Vinhos Magazine chose Vinha Centenária, from Azores Wine Company, as one of the Best Wines of Portugal in 2018. All the wines crafted by António Maçanita, whether from the Alentejo, the Douro or the Azores, are frequently recognised by the most prestigious national and international publications.
António Maçanita produces wines in four different regions, has created three personal production projects, through his consultancy company he currently supports four producers, and launches over 50 signature labels into the market each year.
To understand the winemaker António Maçanita, it is important to know his origins, his education, and his journey.
Born of Azorean father and Alentejo mother. Of their three children, two are linked to wine: winemakers António and Joana Maçanita. Both were born in Lisbon, "but I never felt I was from Lisbon", António confesses, while explaining that childhood holidays spent in the Azores stirred in him and his sisters a strong sense of belonging to the archipelago, which would eventually have an influence on their future.
It was in São Miguel that winemaker António Maçanita developed a strong connection to the sea and maritime activities, from bodyboarding to underwater hunting.
This led him to confuse leisure with vocation and to consider a career in marine biology. It was a friend of his father, a professor at the University of Algarve, who dissuaded him, advising him to rewrite his college application and go for Agronomy. This is where life’s twists of fate manifest: when correcting his application, António Maçanita made a mistake in the course code and ends up enrolling in Agro-Industrial Engineering.
His passion for viticulture, a subject which could be included in the course plan in the third year, is passed on to him by professor Rogério de Castro, one of the most respected viticulture scientists in Portugal and also a wine producer in the Vinhos Verdes region.
Winemaker António Maçanita's enthusiasm earned him an invitation to pursue an academic career at the Instituto Superior de Agronomia (ISA), but António intended to pursue different avenues. He first flew to the Azores, where he, in 2000 still during college, tried to plant a vineyard with two course mates.
These companions were Frederico Vilar Gomes, currently the winemaker at Companhia das Quintas, and João Palhinha, who for many years was responsible for Esporão's exports to Brazil and is now Esporão's Sales Manager in Brazil. They were only 20 years old when, after planting the first vineyard of their lives, a storm wiped out the land.
"I realised that a greater force was telling me: 'come back when you are ready'.
Winemaker António Maçanita would only return ten years later.
In just four years, António Maçanita has interned in California, USA, Australia and Bordeaux, France. Napa Valley was the first stop. Future winemaker António Maçanita was still at college when he spent four months at Merryvale Vineyards under the Cultural Agriculture Exchange Program: "When I arrived in Napa Valley, I realised that the theory was of little use to me and that I knew absolutely nothing.” Back at college, and despite his rugby player status allowing him this kind of flexibility, António Maçanita was not well received by his teachers.
The newly graduated winemaker and producer António Maçanita always had disagreements with authority, but above all impatience with the status quo.
Memorising class material and restricting his studies to exam subjects was never his style, a rebellious attitude that his teachers rarely understood. However, he returned to California in 2002 with the intention of working directly with Charles Thomas at the Rudd Estate winery - winemaker at Mondavi and Opus One for 15 years, two of the wineries that revolutionised Napa Valley wines. Charles Thomas was a constant source of learning.
Winemaker António Maçanita would ask a question and the answer always came in the form of an essay. It is at this time and based on the process of the winery where he stayed the second time he went to California, that winemaker António Maçanita began to develop a method that eventually defined his winemaking: use of gravity over the use of pumps.
In short: the choice is between a more efficient and faster production method, that is pumping over the must, which can cause bruising or tearing of fragile skins, releasing uninteresting aromas or structural compounds; or forwarding the crushed grapes to the fermentation vat by a conveyor belt, that is by gravity.
Winemaker António Maçanita's uses gravity in his wineries.
This defines my way of making wine. Is it anti-investment? Yes! But this way I can control what I'm doing. I make slow wine
After handing in his final course work and finishing university, winemaker António Maçanita went to Australia, where he worked for five months at the d'Arenberg winery, considered several times to be one of the most successful Australian wineries and its owner, Chester Osborn, already in the fourth generation of the family in the buisness, declared personality of the year several times.
Here, once again, the method used was contrary to everything António had learned. Nevertheless, within three weeks he became responsible for the night shift of the pressing room.
It was through a winemaker he met in Australia, Jack Walton, that António arranged for his next experience to be in Bordeaux, France. With rugby player status, he eventually got an internship at Château Lynch-Bages in 2003. However, before that, winemaker António Maçanita and two friends sent their CVs to Herdade da Malhadinha. When only Frederico Vilar Gomes was selected, António and his third friend infiltrated the trip and ended up all getting the job.
The first steps were taken into the Portuguese wine industry.
These four years travelling have impacted the modus operandis of winemaker António Maçanita a lot. Not only in the obvious accumulation of experience and learning, but in the working structure of his own wineries.
I brought a horizontal way of attributing responsibility to the workers from the USA and Australia, from France where positions are more hierarchical and hermetic, he brought the essential gathering at the harvest time table, with good food and good wines.
António Maçanita wines are produced in different regions, but with a very clear underlying principle: the historical recovery of the inherent characteristics of the grape variety and regions by not following fashions, but rather creating them, sometimes unintentionally. In António Maçanita's wines and in his methods, his dedication to the terroir and to sustainable local development is clear.
The winemaker António Maçanita, says that for him Terroir is defined by its contradictory definition.
a wine that incorporates the Terroir of a region, is a wine that could not be made anywhere else but there, because it incorporates a places uniqueness: climate, exposure, soil, set of unique grape varieties and traditional winemaking methods. To try to copy it elsewhere, someone would have to import those same varieties, plant them in a similar location and produce them using the same traditional technique
Much of the success of António Maçanita's wines stems from the winemaker's constant desire to delve deeper into each region and find what makes it unique. Sharing in each wine the exercise of practice, test and recovery.
António Maçanita's wines often adress a region’s "collective memory", as they go further back in time, using techniques and varieties that can only be found in old books. All this in search of the "Holy Grail" of each region's terroir, the winemaker produces the wines that give him pleasure, great wines, unique and full of personality, as if on a journey through time.
Of course there are regions with a "stronger" Terroir than others and it is this difference that makes a place unique.
For example: "a Terrantez do Pico in the Azores, planted in the crack of the volcanic rock, where nothing else would grow, less than 50 metres from the wild Atlantic Ocean, with a variety that only exists in the Azores, receiving the constant brineing of the sea, has a specific flavour, which to copy would only be possible by planting it in the same place, with the same variety, that's Terroir."
António Maçanita's wines focus various indigenous varieties, which have been disappearing over time, due to their lack of productivity, colour, alcohol, because they are too difficult to produce or simply because they are out of fashion.
In the Azores, one of António Maçanita's wines is produced 100% with the Terrantez do Pico variety, a variety recovered in 2010 by winemaker António Maçanita in collaboration with the Agricultural Development Services of São Miguel Island, which is undoubtedly a milestone on this path of recovering indigenous grape varieties. Still in the Azores, António Maçanita set out on a project researching the genetics of Azores grape varieties in collaboration with Biocant, resulting in a scientific article published in 2018 in the Autralian Journal of Grape and Wine Research;
In the Algarve, the success of the trial of the Negra Molle variety, by António Maçanita and Cláudia Favinha, returns this variety to the Portuguese tables, making it part of António Maçanita 's portfolio of wines. This essay resulted from a consulting project for the producer João Clara, in 2011. Negra Molle is perhaps Portugal's oldest grape variety, and is the Algarve region's greatest wine-growing heritage.
In regions like Alentejo and Douro, where the climate and soils have great similarities with other regions, the role of grape varieties becomes even more fundamental as a symbol of the region's identity and its DNA. For they hold both the millennia of displacement of populations and the various spontaneous crossings over time, which gave rise to new varieties, some rejected by Man and others chosen that have reached the present day.
In the Alentejo, it can be said that the process of understanding the region's native grape varieties began in 2007, which is reflected in António Maçanita's wines, starting with the Fitapreta Red wine, which uses only the Aragonez, Trincadeira and Alicante Bouschet grape varieties. This is followed in 2008 by the Fitapreta White which focuses on old vine white blends, in 2010 the Tinto de Castelão and in 2015 the A Trincadeira (Não É Tão) Preta.
However, in 2018 António Maçanita's wines had a major addition, the "Chão dos Eremitas vineyard". This is the first vineyard that António Maçanita bought in the Alentejo, a 50-year-old vineyard with almost extinct grape varieties that once dominated the Alentejo, such as: Tinta Carvalha, Moreto, Alicante Branco, Tamarez or Trincadeira das Pratas and that will surely mark the future of António Maçanita wines.
In the Douro, the wines of António Maçanita produced with his sister Joana Maçanita, seek to explore and understand the potential of the various Douro climates, with the Touriga Nacional tested in various terroirs (Letra A, Cima Corgo, Douro Superior), and to understand the Douro pre-Touriganisation that can be found in the small remaining old plots, some of which are over 100 years old, and which result in the Olgas and the Canivéis wines.
All of António Maçanita's wine projects are born from challenges, from partnerships driven by friendship and the complicity of those who share the same vision and passion for wine.
António Maçanita, with the care of an alchemist and a taste for challenges, allied to the irreverence that characterises him and the will to innovate, generates new projects that quickly become a great success.
António Maçanita Chronology