Ralf Schmidt-Stosberg – A full-handed professional

He is German but Portuguese with soul, since he has lived in Portugal since he was a boy. And there are no people who don't know him in the wine sector. Ralf Schmidt-Stosberg is one of the founders of Alug'Aqui, one of the largest hotel equipment rental companies in Portugal, and Schott Swiezel's representative in our country, one of the largest glass manufacturers in the world, in particular glass cups and decanters and crystal. Continuing to grow is the motto. 

What did you want to be when I was a ki
d? As I've always worn thick glasses, I couldn't be an aviator (laughs). As I lived near the beach, I realized that sea, wind, sailing, diving and swimming, was my environment, so I created a kid's dream of being a laughing stocker (laughs). Only on days of extreme good visibility could i see these distant islands of my room in Chão de Meninos, in Sintra ... That is, working in the world of wine was the work of chance. Basically, the opportunities go ahead of us and we just have to be 'awake' to grab them...

Alug'Aqui is always present when talking about wine and gastronomy.  When did you start the company
? The company was born in 1999 with three partners, me, my sister Silvia and my wife, Filipa, each with a third of the quota. The first rentals were made by expo 98 height. We started with just glasses, crockery and cutlery, but the business was growing. In 2000 we added furniture and, in 2010, kitchen equipment. The following year we opened a branch in Porto, in 2006 in Funchal, in 2007 in the Algarve, which was later transferred to Évora, to be more central. Today, Alug'Aqui leads the rental segment of hotel equipment in Portugal, being the only company with a national presence through its 4 regional delegations.

How was your training in the wine sec
tor? My training started at home early, where during meals not always work matters were avoided let alone banned. Being bilingual and having an experience of affections was also very important. My father came to Portugal in 1955 with the function of developing a market study for tools and machines, but eventually fell in love with the country and was, creating in 1960 his own representation sum, Schmidt-Stosberg. In 1974 we moved from Lisbon to Sintra where, at the time, we still played in the street, hitchhiking was asked to go to the big beach, jump the fires in São Pedro and kill pigs in the neighboring garage. The first contacts with the wine are from that time, however, I confess that I did not like it very much. Only from the egg liqueur that my parents served friends when they went there to the house and I ended up pre-washing the glasses before going to bed (laughs). And I'd love to. Already in the early 1980s, my teenage colleagues and I arrived in nearby Quinta de São Vicente, for 20 shields (10 cents!) a bifana, fries and a tacinha of white wine ... 

Then he started tasting wineearl
yYes, but I confess that at first I liked beer more... until, on a certain Friday, my friend Chico, third generation of the famous house of queijadas and pillows 'Casa do Preto', in Sintra, invited me to an afternoon of winery. I was about fifteen years old and the 'uncles' present took care of starting 'the German' in wine, in concrete, in the Ramisco wine of Colares. I will never forget the first drink, where I learned that we can never wash the language of the particular taste of this unique wine that still moves with me a lot today. But the decisive contact with the world of wine took place in spring / summer of 1986, at the age of seventeen, when I entered the Instituto Superior Técnico, in Lisbon, and the wine became more frequent at the table. It was also this year that my father, who had represented Schott in Portugal since 1960, received new cup samples. Between 1974 and 1986, the result of the national protectionist strategy of the post 25 April it was not feasible to import cups from Germany, so the samples we had from the early 1970s were already outdated and receiving them was an event. 

I'm watching the movie, he's also been interested in the glasses...
 Yes. At that time, my father was clearly more dedicated to Schott's technical glass - laboratory glass, glasses lenses, bulb tubes, fiber optics, among others - and only later devoted himself to schott Zwiesel's collection that already had almost 2,000 different glasses... Here came the glasses and then came the first challenge ... 

My father ordered two samples of each glass, the first to stay in the company and the other to circulate among potentially interested customers. We never waited to get four pallets with hundreds of scattered glasses. The Bavarian packers of the so-called pallets placed two glasses equal in the shipment, but only tagged one and made a gala in mixing as much as possible the second not labeled by the other pallets... In the next three weeks, I became an expert in the memory game, to join glasses to the couple (laughs). From there, and already in full enjoyment of the fantastic student life at the Instituto Superior Técnico, all visits of my father and his seller to customers were scheduled according to my availability to discover more pairs of glasses (laughs).

What did you graduate fro
m? I took the course of Electrotechnical and Computer Engineering, telecommunications business. However, near the end of the course I realized that this would not be my vocation, hence having chosen in 1994, after 3 years of interval where I became an entrepreneur, for taking the Master's degree in Marketing and Management at the Catholic University, a university to which I remained associated as teacher for seven years teaching the Marketing chair in the first year of the Applied Spoils Language course.  

But he ended up dedicating himself entirely to the company..
. Yes. I remember the start of Marinotel, Vila Vita and Hotel Madeira Palácio as my first projects in the national hotel. Through my unfortunately deceased friend António Cordeiro, owner of the mythical restaurant Barrote Atiçado, in Pontinha, I was invited to the first wine dinners organized by Vinhos Magazine, where the exceptional wines contrasted with the disastrous table service, since the number of glasses was almost always insufficient and inadequate! At the end of the first dinner, I asked the Wine Magazine to invite me to these dinners and, in return, put a stock of 1000 itinerant glasses suitable for the occasion. Were these glasses the real start and the beginning of Alug'Aqui ... And that's when I started to realize that I was part of the wine industry in Portugal. As you can see, they didn't get rid of me (laughs). It was at this time that I began to hone my taste, to like our wines more and more... 

One of the most recent projects was a decanter for Port wine designed by architect Siza Vieira, who had also designed glasses for Porto for Schott...
Siza cups have been sold with great success for years, millions of cups sold and exports growing continuously since the first year. We are facing a case study in the world of cups also conferring on this creation of the architect Siza Vieira the timelessness that characterizes all his works. More recently, we have a new project to evolve in the Siza range, sponsored by Manuel Cabral, then president of the IVDP. Thus arises a decanter with double curvature, which contributes to a better airing of the wine. Handling was another important factor to take into account, given the depression at its base that allows balanced to hold it with only one hand. A variant produced from borosilicate glass tube has also been tested to ensure homogeneous and minimal thickness across the surface. When decanter two accessories, a funnel and a supporting cup are added to land the funnel. The launch will be close to Christmas...

What are the new challenges for Schott for the future?
Achieve and maintain leadership in all segments where you operate, always responding to your partners. We are aware of what we have achieved in the past, and the future is to continue to grow and do our best.

© Photograph: Maria João de Almeida