From 0 wine knowledge to 23 wine awards: how we started
It was the year 1989. Huub & Wil, a dairy farmer and primary school teacher in the Netherlands, packed their belongings and moved to Portugal.
They traveled north to south and back again to find a place. Turns out the middle of Portugal is very green and lush; good soil, plenty of water. So Huub & Wil zoomed in on that region.
They went to the local hairdresser to hear the village gossip. That’s where they heard there was an old wine estate for sale. The house was from the year 1756 and it came with a dilapidated vineyard.
It was owned by an elderly lady who had an in-house maid available 24/7 living on the wine estate, plus 8 vineyard workers. The lady didn’t bother to maintain the property and the house, she just wanted to move to Lisbon.
Huub & Wil made an offering. But they couldn’t stay in the house yet, so they had to sleep in their camping tent for months.
When they finally moved in, they renovated two rooms every winter so they could start renting them out to tourists. The windows were still leaking, so Wil had to move around the house with a bucket and a mop.
This is how the hotel got started.
Huub & Wil put their hotel brochures in rental cars - this was some guerrilla marketing. They contacted some travel agencies.
The vineyard needed a lot of attention; Huub & Wil couldn’t even walk through it, as it was covered in brambles.
They didn’t know much about wine: empty glass full glass, red wine white wine. They had to ask the Portuguese Ministry of Agriculture for advice on how to run a winery.
The bureaucrat laughed and said: ‘‘Ha! That is stupid twice: first, you have a winery but you don’t know what to do with it, and second, you admit that you don’t know it.’’
But by asking a lot of questions and following courses Huub & Wil learned and became experts in their field: small-scale organic craft wine.
After running the vineyard for seven years Huub & Wil started five years of preparation to rebuild the whole vineyard in 2001.
North-facing vineyard hills became south-facing vineyard hills. Huub & Wil were literally moving mountains.
In 2005, after five years of zero wine production, Huub & Wil got their first harvest from the new vineyard.
In 2007, this young new wine already got a gold medal in an international wine competition. Wines from new vineyards usually don’t get awards that soon!
Ever since, almost every Bonjardim wine has been awarded, with 23 awards in total.
Also, in 2016 Huub & Wil were awarded ‘‘Wine farmer of the year’’ in Portugal. The criteria were: quality of the wine, sustainability, innovation and contribution to the local economy.
In 2017, the Netherlands Royal Court Marshall selected Bonjardim Wines as the official supplier for the Dutch state visit to Portugal. The ‘who is who’ of Dutch-Portuguese relations were drinking Bonjardim Wines at the Dutch embassy, including Queen Máxima of the Netherlands.
More wine awards followed, and... If you want to know how things go now, sign up for the Bonjardim newsletter.