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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Richard Mayson

The long-running saga of the Casa do Douro (CD) took a new turn in mid-November, when the Portuguese Government intervened to reform the institutions that govern both Port and Douro wine. The saga began as far back as 1990, when the Casa do Douro, which was charged with representing and regulating over 30,000 growers in the Douro, bought 40% of the Port shipper Real Companhia Velha (better known as Royal Oporto). At the time this was thought to be tantamount to a referee turning player, and over the subsequent 12 years the deal has nearly bankrupted the Casa do Douro. Under the proposed reform a new body, the Instituto dos Vinho do Douro e Porto (IVDP), will be the sole organisation responsible for Port and Douro wines, with an interprofessional council responsible for both the commercial and production (vineyard) sides of the business. Although the Casa do Douro will keep and maintain the cadastro or' register of vineyard holdings in the Douro, it will be subject to independent audit by the IVDP. The Casa do Douro will continue to represent growers on the interprofessional council. As part and parcel of the reform, the Portuguese Government will settle the Casa do Douro's debt, using its considerable stocks of wine as a guarantee. The Government will negotiate the sale of these stocks to the commercial sector (probably through the IVDP) over an as yet unspecified period of time. The Casa do Douro will no longer be able to buy stocks of wine for resale. In return, it will resume its participation in the affairs of Real Companhia Velha, through its 40% holding. The Secretary of State for Rural Development (and ex-president of the Port Wine Institute), Bianchi de Aguiar, hopes to have the new institutions in place by the end of the year. Although the reform means the Casa do Douro will play a reduced role, its president, Manuel Antonio dos Santos, welcomes the reforms as overwhelmingly positive'. After years of posturing, the Port shippers see the need for a single, strong, independent controlling body.