Esporão Celebrates 50th Anniversary with Top Awards for Organic Olive Oils

What started as a family winery expanded into significant olive farming and oil production after a friendly challenge from an uncle to a nephew.

(Photo: Esporão)
By Lisa Anderson
Jun. 13, 2023 15:01 UTC
(Photo: Esporão)

As Esporão cel­e­brated its 50th birth­day this year, the Portuguese com­pany added two Gold Awards at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition to its grow­ing col­lec­tion of acco­lades.

Ana Carrilho, Esporão’s pro­duc­tion direc­tor, told Olive Oil Times that the com­pany had won 155 awards for its extra vir­gin olive oils since 2012.

What appeared to be the mere dream of two friends in 1973, 50 years ago, has grown into an inter­na­tional and gen­er­a­tional project.- Ana Carrilho, pro­duc­tion direc­tor, Esporão

Carrilho ascribed their suc­cess to Esporão’s mis­sion: to make the best prod­ucts from what nature pro­vides.”

Esporão’s olive oils aim to adopt the expres­sion of the land they come from, pro­duced exclu­sively from olives of the Alentejo region, using native vari­eties,” she explained.

See Also:Producer Profiles

Our team plays a cru­cial role in ensur­ing the qual­ity and con­sis­tency of Esporão’s olive oils, from har­vest­ing olives to the entire pro­duc­tion process and finally deliv­er­ing the olive oils to con­sumers,” Carrilho added.

She also praised the efforts of the company’s 60 olive farm­ing part­ners, who help us pre­serve the native vari­eties and the tra­di­tional agri­cul­ture of the Alentejo.”

In 1950 the company’s cur­rent owner, José Roquette, and Joachim Bandeira bought a 1,840-hectare estate in Alentejo, Portugal’s largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing region.


The expansion of super-high-density olive groves have changed the face of Alentejo. (Photo: Esporão)

Esporão’s bound­aries have been unchanged for cen­turies – since 1267. It has unique agri­cul­tural con­di­tions: wide tem­per­a­ture vari­a­tions, seven dif­fer­ent types of soil and extra­or­di­nary bio­di­ver­sity,” she said.

Roquette and Bandeira ini­tially planted vine­yards, har­vest­ing their first grapes in 1985 and pro­duc­ing their first wines shortly there­after.

See Also:In Portugal, a Tough Season Ends with Stronger Determination

Esporão’s first two decades are a story of fight, faith and a vision so pow­er­ful that it has left indeli­ble marks on the mod­ern his­tory of Portuguese wine,” Carrilho said.

Since then, Esporão’s wines have been exported inter­na­tion­ally and have won mul­ti­ple awards. Carrilho said the estate is now home to 441 hectares of vine­yards with 40 grape cul­ti­vars. Aragonês, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, Antão Vaz, Gouveio and Roupeiro are the pre­dom­i­nant local vari­eties, along with Alicante Bouschet from France.


Ana Carrilho (Photo: Esporão)

In 1997, Esporão started writ­ing a new chap­ter in its story when the com­pany started pro­duc­ing olive oil. Carrilho said it started with Roquette’s uncle chal­leng­ing him to pro­duce olive oils of the same qual­ity as their wines, and the rest is his­tory.

Currently, Esporão has 111 hectares of olive groves at Herdade do Esporão and Herdade dos Perdigões in Alentejo and at Quinta dos Murças in the Douro region,” Carrilho said.

Roquette’s son, João, fol­lowed in his foot­steps by join­ing the com­pany in 2005. His vision and strat­egy have brought inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion and sus­tain­abil­ity to the heart of the company’s cul­ture,” Carrilho said.

See Also:Portugal Enjoys Record-High Off-Year Harvest

Values passed down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion have con­tributed to a cul­ture of respon­si­bil­ity, hard work and excel­lence, which is reflected in every­thing Esporão does,” she added.

In 2007, Esporão started expand­ing its organic olive groves, and today 93 hectares are cer­ti­fied organic.

The company’s organic ambi­tions began when they planted olives at Olival dos Arrives in 2007 with 80 hectares of Arbequina and Cobrançosa trees.

The name Arrifes derives from where it stands: an area of cliffs with rocky soil, mak­ing the olive tree more resilient in a bal­anced ecosys­tem rich in bio­di­ver­sity,” Carrilho said.


Organic Galega trees grow next to the historical Herdade do Esporão Tower. (Photo: Esporão)

This grove was an addi­tion to their organic Galega grove next to the estate’s his­tor­i­cal Herdade do Esporão Tower which dates back to the Middle Ages and houses a museum. The com­pany started grow­ing another 9 hectares of Cordovil olive trees in 2019, Carrilho said.

At Quinta dos Murças, in Douro, the organic olive grove of 15 hectares has around 6,000 olive trees fea­tur­ing dif­fer­ent alti­tudes, sun expo­sures, schist soils and the char­ac­ter­is­tic cli­mate of the Douro Valley,” she said. This olive grove has Galega and Negrinha de Freixo olive vari­eties.”

What appeared to be the mere dream of two friends in 1973, 50 years ago, has grown into an inter­na­tional and gen­er­a­tional project,” Carrilho con­cluded.

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