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François Pinon (1951-2021)
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Rita and Vitor Claro Interview
This interview with Rita and Vitor Claro took place in February, 2020.
Let’s start from the beginning. What were you doing before the Dominó project?
I first started as a cook in 1999 and this was my full time job until 2016. In 2010, I started a small side business making wine. It was two
Rita, what were you doing before the transition?
I was working as an architect. We started working our first vineyard together in 2015. After the 2016
So Vitor, you hadn’t met Rita when you started Dominó?
I hadn’t. In fact, up until 2014 Dominó was REALLY a side project, something very small. Then, in 2015, we took over the first vineyard in
Let’s go back to when you were working as chef. I know it’s important to the evolution of the Dominó project.
My first jobs were in hotels. I worked in London, Spain and Portugal. In 2002, I was 21 and opened up my first place. I had it for three years before selling it. I then worked for many other people until 2012, when I opened my final place. I ran it for five years and was also partners in another restaurant at a very successful food court in
Rita, you never had anything to do with the restaurants right?
I helped him out a bit towards the end, but not much more than that. Our first real collaboration together was in the vineyards. We found joy in this and it made us pursue this plan.
Vitor, what inspired you to start making wine on the side? And can you explain what Dominó was before taking over vineyards?
Basically I was lucky enough to be around people that opened amazing bottles, wines that became important to me, that defined me. It was very subjective; I could just as well not been impacted by them at all. In 2008 and 2009, I was working at a very successful place that tripled as a hotel, restaurant and wine
So my first goal was to make wines the opposite of what I disliked. I felt like this could be done. I set out to make a white and a red, two
Can you break everything down?
Everything started in
His response was that it wasn’t possible, that it couldn’t be done from the winery’s grapes. This was during a staff meal, and a colleague of ours called Caterina said: “Why don’t you use my grandfather’s vineyard?” We asked where it was, and she said it was right in
In 2015, I was doing that consultancy in
From 2010 to 2012 I rented one
So this is how we came to have wines from different
In 2017, we had a dinner with a friend. He asked me how the restaurant was going, not realizing that I’d closed it over a year ago! The truth is that we were extremely close in our twenties but had not seen each other in over a decade. So I told him business was lousy, that I’d closed the restaurant and we were focusing on wine.
His eyes opened wide and he told me that his grandmother, still alive in her 90’s, owned a vineyard. It’s a beautiful place about 20 minutes from
So today we find ourselves making
So how did you learn to make wine?
That’s very kind of you but I haven’t learned yet! We try to make everything better each year. I always try to honestly explain that we are not winemakers. The guy I was originally going to have a partnership with, he’s a winemaker. If you want to plant 100
We do a very simple job in the
Is everything being made in the same place now?
Last year we still made some wine in
You currently live in the center of Lisbon right?
Are you planning to move?
Our goal is to eventually move to
How far is Portalegre?
Two and a half hours.
How do you manage your time between the city and the vineyards?
We are currently renting a house in
What about the vineyards that are further away?
We are farming the grapes in in
Do you see any major shifts since you’re working the vineyards full time?
We need to refurbish where we make wine to have the minimum dignity of calling it a
I always feel that a wine is not just one detail but a culmination of many small ones. There are many small things we want to pursue and do better and better. We’re still putting some of our
You said earlier that the goal when you started was to make the opposite of what you were tasting at the time. Your wines are evidently much lower in alcohol and extraction than most Portuguese wines. What does that mean to you?
Lower alcohol is not our main goal. Alcohol is a consequence. We have
If you want to do a more “impressive”, bigger wine you need more alcohol. We don’t mind losing
I was having a conversation recently with a winemaking friend and he told me I was chasing trends by making low alcohol, low
But at the end of the day these people have to exist and so do we. Our wines are fresher and lighter because they are a contrast to bigger, heavier wines. My wines are only considered light because something else much bigger exists. At the end of the day, we pursue what we want and what we like.
We never got around to it: can you explain the name Dominó?
Dominó is a very basic pun. In