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Miguel Viseu Interview
This interview took place over Skype in October, 2020.
Give us some information about your background.
I was born and raised in the
I studied agricultural engineering at university, because I wanted to have another option if for whatever reason wine was not what I wanted to pursue. And also because I’ve always preferred being out in the land than in a winery. I’ve always felt the vines were the most important. I felt that in winemaking, you can always find a solution. But the vines are more complicated and you need to know how they work. I studied in Refoios, the village where Aphros is located (ed note: Miguel currently works as head winemaker at the Aphros winery) and where I currently live, though I’d never imagined returning here.
In 2008, I decided it was time to leave my father’s house; my oldest brother was managing the the family property and I decided to go do some work abroad. I worked in
I’ve always felt that the winemaker is something of an artist; they often have good ideas but are bad at selling their wines and managing the business and administrative side of things. While in Africa, I worked for an international group in management and sales. While there I was able to help a large supermarket that carried Portuguese brands to create a new warehouse and a new branch to sell goods from. It was a great experience for professional perspective, a great life lesson. Leli was working in a educational NGO and that also exposed us both more to that reality.
How long did you live in Africa?
Three years in Mozambique. It was a very important time in my life because it made me realize I wanted to go back to Portugal to make wine. Sometimes when something is in your life, you love it but you get used to it. Though it was an incredible experience, not having wine made me miss it more and more.
You are working with your wife Leli. At what point did you meet?
We met when I was living in Brazil in 2012. I worked two years there as a winemaker and would actually fly back to Europe to do the
I was working in a new region for making wine. I took the job because it felt like a big challenge to work in a different country in a place where vine growing was new. In the end, it often felt like we were fighting against nature trying to make it work. I was satisfied enough with the wines but did not feel a connection to the vines like I do here in Portugal.
When you decided to come back to Portugal, did you have any kind of plan in mind?
To be honest, sometimes I feel life is very mystical and esoteric. It feels like the universe brought me here. At that point Leli and I wanted to have a child, I wanted to make wine, we agreed it was time to go back to Portugal. Before even quitting my job, I was having conversation in the
But that fell through, so for a few months I created a gameplan to start my own project by taking over an abandoned winery. Five days before I was set to return to Portugal, I was informed that Aphros was looking for a head winemaker. I interviewed with the owner Vasco and we immediately got along. He offered me the job and I accepted. It was crazy because it was so last minute: the
How did the contact with Aphros happen?
It’s hard to believe, but I actually studied agricultural engineering in the village where Aphros is located. I’d left university in 2006 and Aphros was founded in 2004. I then started working in other countries and never had the chance to meet Vasco, but I knew the wines and what the project was. It was a friend of the winemaker who had a brief stint at Aphros that contacted me about it. I’d told everyone I knew I was moving back to Portugal and to give me any leads if they had any.
Everybody knew I was more into
How long have you been working at Aphros at this point?
I came back in 2017, so this will be my fourth vintage.
So what’s happening over at Aphros?
I’m the head winemaker and Tiago Sampaio from Folias de Baco is the head consultant. We started around the same time; I hadn’t met Tiago yet but knew about his work. And I think it was a moment for Vasco to find people more aligned with his vision, to get the wines closer to what he wanted them to be. You could say he’s the architect of the wines and we create what he has in mind.
We get along very well, we understand what we want and we are very experimental. You can feel a great energy in the project.
Let’s talk about the Galactic Wines project and how that came to be.
I was a little bit resistant at first; I’m from the
I also wanted to do something independently with my family. Our first son was born in 2018 and that also felt symbolic for starting our own project. I’d also been seeing how some winemakers were making wines from different regions, and it made me realize that it actually wasn’t that hard to just start a small project.
I have a childhood friend who lives in the area, and he began talking to me about making wine for him. But this was right when I’d gotten back: first kid, new job, new area… After we settled in a bit, it felt the time was right to help him. So at the end of the 2018
It’s also important to note that we started Galactic for fun. It’s why there are only 700 to a 1000 bottles of each
What is the scale of Galactic Wines at this point?
In 2018, we
As far as the wines, we’re focused on a few things. For the
We actually had no more room for it so it
What about the vineyards?
Our goal is to buy grapes right now and to eventually rent vineyards and work
Where do you see things going?
I’m from the border of the
So do you envision Galactic to be a multi-region type of winery?
We want to live where we are now. It’s a very nice quality of life. I don’t want the project to become a multi-region thing and have no intention to become a roaming winemaker. My goal is to follow the vines and see what happens. I’m 90 minutes from where I was born right now and that’s as far as I’m willing to go.
But again, we love the region we are in. There are still many interesting varieties here from
Tell us about the name Galactic Wines.
When I was a kid, I didn’t have an imaginary friend, I had an imaginary family (laughs).I always called them my galactic family. So the name symbolizes creating wines from my imagination. With imagination things can be interpreted differently; you can have fun with the wines. I think having this ability is what helps keep tradition alive but also creates new ones. And of course there is the respect of the environment: the work in the vines, the wines that we drink, the people we admire. We also both love astronomy, nights staring at the sky, looking to the stars and the moon.
We don’t plan to be big producers. We plan to create a lifestyle around the farming and the wine. We’ll touch each bottle, wax them by hand. We don’t want this to be about the money and the stress of running a business. I was born in this and it can get to a level where all the fun gets sucked out of it.
What about in the cellar?
In our area, we have natural high