Study forum VIPs Jeremy Eubanks and inderpal singh gave us a history lesson on South African wine law last week which also explores the challenges with cultural divides, global economics and evolution of the wine industry there. Complicated stuff!
This week: The benificio system of Port
What are the requirements and purpose of this system?
The Beneficio is an annual production quota system administered and issued by the IVDP. The quota determines the amount of port that can be produced from grape must (total Douro crush) in any given vintage. Determining factors are market conditions and overall quality of the particular year. The actual quota per quinta is supposed to be related to the quality of the vineyards based on the grading system (mentioned here in previous posts). The reality is often that actual quotas are distributed somewhat evenly over not only the A & B graded ones but also the C, D & E sites in any given year thus not necessarily favouring the better vineyards. In this way the Beneficio has acted a little like an unofficial 'employment benefit' for all growers in the Duoro Valley. A loophole is that owners of say A & B quintas may puchase the must quotas and transfer them from other lower grade vineyards to add to their own, meaning they can produce more port if desired. (source: Richard Mayson).
Pretty interesting about the secondary market for the quotas. With yeilds for Port getting down in the 25 hl/ha range, it's easy to see why folks would be looking for a way to produce more. Reminds me a bit of the way Champagne houses skirt max yields by trading portions of grapes destined as reserve wines.