Written by: Jordan Blevins
As our time in Portugal began to wind down, Cohort 16 enjoyed two final cultural visits in Porto that continued to teach us new things and solidify the impact of this international experience.
Located directly on the bank of the Douro River in the heart of Porto, the Sandeman wine cellars have attracted visitors for years. Like many successful Portuguese companies, this is a family-run operation, and they have focused on producing port wine and sherry in the Douro Valley for over 200 years. We began with a stroll along the river where we were able to enjoy the beautiful views and watch the boats maneuver the port waters.
After lunch, our guide took us on a visual journey through the history of the company and the process of making port wine. Even though it is a small operation in the global wine market, Sandeman has been credited with many “firsts” especially in the branding arena.
They were the first company in the wine industry to begin iron-branding their barrels for easier identification throughout the trade process. They were also one of the first companies to create and associate a label directly with their wine, hence the creation of Sandeman Don, who is still featured on their port bottles and recognized as their advertising symbol.
The cellars we toured are 100% operational and have been utilized since the founding of the company for storage for over four million liters of wine during the fermentation process. We were able to see three different fermentation methods for the various wines, as well as the required humidity ponds that allow the French oak barrels and wine corks to stay properly hydrated. Pictured are the extra-large barrels used to age the “young” port wines.
At the end of the tour we were able to sample a few of the different port variations in true Portuguese fashion, surrounded with family and friends enjoying priceless moments.
We learned insights from the businesses we visited, our cultural experiences, and the Portuguese people we got to know during this international experience. Throughout all of the visits, there were two key messages that were continuously referenced. One was an idea of connectedness through familial ties, which are rooted deep in the culture and displayed through the most successful Portuguese businesses and trades being passed down from generation to generation. The second was a feeling of hope for the future displayed in the focus on sustainability and future generations.
On the last day, we presented our final team course assignments to our professors. After, we joined together for a traditional Portuguese farewell dinner at eLeBe Entreparedes to celebrate the completion of another EMBA course.
However, during dinner it became clear that we were all celebrating more than just a great trip; we had inherently learned to embrace the Portuguese sense of connectedness. We were celebrating the bonds that were built and strengthened through this experience, the laughs that were shared, and the memories that were made. We were celebrating the risks we had taken, both individually and as a cohort, the challenges we had overcome, and the success we know is in our future. We were celebrating the “family” this EMBA experience has created.