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A Bullfighter at Casa Santos Lima


The winery is housed in our 1750’s bank barn. The barn’s original purpose was as a malting barn to malt barley and other grains for distilled spirits. Over the years it was altered many times to be used for livestock, storage and parties.

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2580-081 Aldeia Galega da Merceana, Portugal
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351 263 760 621

Diogo Sepúlveda

The Bullfighter of Casa Santos Lima

Diogo Sepúlveda

A humble heart shows more about a man’s strength than anything else. Recently I had the opportunity to meet Diogo Sepúlveda and engage him in casual conversation. He is the lead winemaker at Casa Santos Lima in Portugal. Before being a winemaker at Santos Lima, Diogo Sepulveda worked in Pomerol, Napa, and at 5-Star Halliday rated Turkey Flat in the Barossa.

His current home, Casa Santos Lima, has been one of the most awarded Portuguese wineries in major wine competitions, and recently Diogo himself won the Wine Masters Challenge 2016 - XVIII World Wine Contest  “Top Winemaker of the Year”.

Diogo’s humility verges on bashfulness when discussing his own accomplishments, but his eyes light up at the mention of wine — especially wine in Portugal.  We spoke candidly about a few of the issues relevant to the region. Every bit of my experience with Diogo showed me an affable and unassuming gentleman, filled with great passion for the region’s legacy.

He received his engineering degree in winemaking & agricultural engineering. But before that, he had one of the most dangerous professions in the world. He literally fought with bulls. As far away from the world of wine as it is, the sport helped shape Diogo into who he is now and taught him lessons he still uses every day.

As a slight difference from Spanish bullfighting, one part of the Portuguese version of a bullfight involves a group of 6 men called forcados, who challenge the bull using only the strength of their bodies. Their goal is to face the weakened, dangerous bull and subdue it by working as a team. The pega, as it is also called,  is a Portuguese expression of the entire bullfighting show. The usual process is for the forcados to line up directly in front of the bull and challenge it. When the bull charges, one man takes the first impact; quickly being surrounded by his comrades to control the bull from all angles. If they can hold steadfast, the bull will submit. It sounds like a death wish, yet Portugal is known for the act and actually executes it flawlessly. Crazy, right?

This act of willpower and teamwork makes its way into all aspects of Diogo’s life — yes, even in the realm of wine.  “Controlling this bull is our only goal as a team. Its done in a very natural and artistic way, according to the ethics and rules of bullfighting,” Diogo explains. He brings this expression and appreciation directly to his winemaking experience, you can tell. “My goal is to retain the balance and elegance that are the trademarks of Santos Lima wines.  What I want to add is a fuller, richer texture and fresher fruit aromas.” It may not be an agitated bull, but wrestling with the grape vines can require just as much, if not more patience.

Casa Santos Lima has been, for several years, the biggest producer of Vinho Regional Lisboa and DOC Alenquer and one of the most awarded Portuguese producers in International Wine Competitions. They are a family owned company located near Lisbon, close to the Atlantic coast. Casa Santos Lima has a clear purpose: to bring outstanding Portuguese wines directly to the people.

Casa Santos Lima has been a family business for many generations. It was founded by Joaquim Santos Lima, who, by the turn of 19th century, was among the greatest producers and exporters of Portuguese wines. Maria João Santos Lima and José Luís Santos Lima Oliveira da Silva, granddaughter and great-grandson of the founder, have been leading Casa Santos Lima since 1990, replanting most of the vines and modernizing all its productive structure. The vines and winemakers here have become so close, they may as well share the same heartbeat. The same soil that feeds the vines runs through the veins of these winemakers every day. And it shows in their work.

The area boasts a superb range of unique, amazing quality wines that offer terrific value too. Rich and ripe, with excellent structure, Quinta do Espírito Santo blends native grapes Tinta Roriz and Castelão. With intense blackberry and damson fruit and notes of mocha, it makes a tasty glass with roast beef, duck or a rich game stew. We didn’t get the chance to sit through and taste a selection of their recent releases this time; though you can be certain they are just as mouthwatering.

Thanks for the lesson in patience and persistence Diogo.
Your experience is the proof that it truly pays off.

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06 Jun 2020

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