Ideas that win

From a family with traditions in wine, in the Douro region, Tatiana Sá Marques developed a new concrete vat to ferment and store wine. To accomplish this work, the young engineer investigated, did several experiments and analyses until reaching the final product. A vat inspired by the past but adapted to the future.

Grandfather and grandfather produced grapes for Port wine and were respected figures in the upper Douro community; her mother is a civil engineer and professor at the University of Coimbra; sister is a wine producer and winemaker at Conceito Vinhos. It is not surprising that Tatiana Sá Marques, 33, followed in her mother's footsteps in the profession and the inspiration in the other family members to devote herself to the wine world... but through engineering, more specifically making cement vats for grape fermentation and wine storage.

It all started a few years ago, when her sister - the winemaker Rita Marques - returned from a vintage in South Africa, told her of some modern cement vats that she saw in the cellar where she worked, an idea that Tatiana kept and developed later, thinking about the tradition of the cement vats that were once used, but adapted to the present day. Taking advantage of the bibliographic research he did for his PhD at instituto Superior Técnico, in the area of structural analysis of fine shell elements in high-performance cementitious composites, he ended up kicking off his project by founding with his mother, Carla Costa Ferreira, the company WiseShape, the first company to develop Portuguese cement vats. More recently, electrotechnical engineer Catarina Simões joined the team, who was responsible for the commercial part. "Portugal has a tradition and prestige in the production of quality wine, but we never develop equipment and technology directly involved in the wine sector. I thought it would be a good opportunity," says Tatiana Sá Marques, co-founder and executive manager of WiseShape, adding that "the new concrete wine vat is destined to the superior and premium wine segment."

Tatiana (à dirt), founded with her mother Carla Ferreira (left) WineShape

Contrary to what one might imagine, Tatiana did not analyze the cement of her competitors, she wanted to experiment herself and draw conclusions. "I was only concerned about achieving the results I wanted. A material that is resistant, more durable, porly and with permeability that allows a gentle micro-oxygenation of the wine, as well as a constant temperature. After several experiments I arrived at this concrete, high-performance concrete (HPC) - which has a high mechanical resistance, much higher than the traditional concrete used in civil construction", explains the young engineer. "Our concrete consists of 15 to 20% cement and between 80 to 85% water and siliceous natural inerts. Thus, wine only contacts natural, sustainable and 100% recyclable elements", he also argues.

In the format, Tatiana also tried to innovate, since the old cement vats are square and the most modern are usually ovais. He then opted for a middle ground, a different and modern but functional design: "When I started to study how to optimize the moments of fermentation and storage, I came to the conclusion that I wanted a hybrid solution between a solid of revolution (cylinder) and a form existing in nature (egg)," tatiana stresses. "Design without function is just art, and WiseShape's tub also has an artistic design but never let go of its usefulness. Thus, I was inspired by sections of ellipses that are tapering in order to generate a natural and fluid movement of the wine. The shape design ensures that there are no dead zones or 'short circuit' effect on the movement of liquid or wine masses in the reassembly process'.  

For now, the company has launched the WiseShape tub with capacity to ferment and store 3,700 liters of must and wine, respectively. On demand - and already in production - there is also the model below, with capacity for 1,000 liters, for smaller winemaking. Since each tub is designed in a dedicated way and using specialized human intervention - and not produced in series - WiseShape also offers the possibility to customize the volume to the needs of customers, in case of specificities and needs very own. And even in the colors there may be special requests on request although the catalog ones are only three: white, terracotta and graphite grey.

The catalog colors are white, terracotta and graphite grey, but you can also order other colors.

Apart from the aesthetic issue, there is yet another fundamental aspect: "Our vats are competitive with the solutions of previous generations available in the international and national markets. In addition, we have better quality and better price, particularly in the investment/volume ratio. In other words, you can create a product of excellence with the best euro per litre capacity ratio." With the demand that has had, in 2022, WiseShape already counts on being present in the most demanding and innovative producers of the market, namely in the Demarcated Regions of douro, Dão, Vinhos Verdes and Trás-os-Montes.