From Foreign Soil to Wine Tales:
The Journey of Valeria Who Became a Wine Writer and Launched Wine Tours in Portugal
Valeria Zeferino, currently a wine writer and educator, made a significant career transition. She shifted from her managerial background to enter the world of wine by studying Enology, Viticulture, and the WSET program in London, successfully achieving level 4 certification.
In 2013, she launched a wine tourism project catering to wine enthusiasts, offering personalized wine tours and thematic tastings to deliver an immersive experience and showcase the rich culture of Portuguese wine.
Valeria expressed confidently "Wine has changed my life" before proceeding to share her perspective on the industry
DB: Throughout your career, what have been some of the most interesting or memorable moments or stories that you've encountered ?
VZ: Some of the most memorable moments in my career are those that mark significant professional evolution. It is like in a board game where you roll the dice and move your game piece, reaching a specific point that propels you further ahead. These moments require a combination of luck and skill, and they often occur when your previous activities and efforts align perfectly, leading to new opportunities. One such moment stands out in my memory when the director of the esteemed Portuguese wine magazine "Vinho Grandes Escolhas" called me and proposed collaboration as a wine critic and writer. It was a pivotal step towards a new level in my career.
I experienced a similar feeling of excitement when I was granted the opportunity to participate in a harvest internship at Château Lafite Rothschild, as part of my Master's program in Enology and Viticulture at Lisbon University.
DB: As a woman working in a field traditionally dominated by males, what challenges have you faced, if any, and how have you overcome them?
VZ: While the wine industry has historically been male-dominated, I believe it has undergone significant changes in recent years. Today, there are numerous successful women making their mark in the industry as winemakers, wine producers, and wine journalists. For instance, some of the most admired Portuguese wines are made by talented women such as Sandra Tavares, Filipa Pato, and Susana Esteban. The Casa Ermelinda Freitas winery stands as a testament to the power of women, as it has been run by women across four generations. I have had the pleasure of meeting many female winemakers and women who have assumed leadership roles in their family projects.
For me personally, the greatest challenge was asserting myself as a foreigner, particularly hailing from a country with limited wine-related connections like Russia. Initially, I faced challenges in gaining acceptance and recognition within the industry. It required significant time, effort and dedication.
DB: In your opinion, what are some of the key factors or trends driving innovation in the wine tourism industry today?
VZ: Wine tourism is a truly refined form of travel, transcending mere geographical exploration or delving into history and culture. It encompasses a sensory experience that combines wine and gastronomy while also fostering multidisciplinary learning. I can define the following key factors/tendencies of wine tourism:
Learning through entertainment. The recently opened WOW (World of Wine) in Vila Nova de Gaia showcases how serious topics can be presented in a highly interactive and captivating manner, encouraging people to delve deeper into their knowledge while having a great time.
Professionalization of wine tourism. Wine tourism, whether conducted in wineries, wine hotels, or other venues, represents a distinct activity that diverges from the core business of wine production, hospitality, or dining. However, its growing significance and profit potential necessitate a professional management approach. To achieve this, it is imperative to have a well-trained workforce comprising competent managers, knowledgeable guides, and adept public relations personnel. This requires the implementation of appropriate regulations and the establishment of specialized training programs.
Collaboration beyond frontiers. I mean joining forces to create more comprehensive and impactful offer, for instance, by development of Iberian Wine Tourism projects. Just imagine the possibilities along the Douro River in Portugal and the Duero River in Spain, each boasting distinct wine appellations such as Vinho Verde, Douro, Trás-os-Montes, Toro, Rueda, and Ribeira Del Duero.
DB: What advice would you give to aspiring women professionals looking to enter the wine industry or pursue a career in the wine world ?
VZ: While I don't claim to be a coach, I can share some personal insights. It's important to have clarity about your goals and remain steadfast in pursuing them. Consistency and persistence are key, as success rarely happens by chance. At the same time it's important not to be afraid of change when you no longer believe in a certain path, as remaining stagnant leads nowhere. “Every search begins with beginner's luck. And every search ends with our will being severely tested” said Paulo Coelho in his novel “The Alchemist”.
Lastly, focus on fostering positive connections and seek out individuals who appreciate and value your unique qualities. Surrounding yourself with supportive and like-minded individuals can contribute to personal and professional growth.