Quinta do Vesuvio is simply magnificent. No wonder it is called the “Quinta of Quintas”
The road from Quinta do Vale Meao climbs up in to the mountains away from the river after Pocinho. For over an hour, the narrow, twisting road takes you up to the top of mountains and then down to green fertile valleys before the climb starts again. The scenery is breathtaking. Finally you descend from the hills for the last time, drive along the vineyards of Vesuvio towards the river, and take the dirt track past the tiny railway station to the magnificent Quinta.
Quinta do Vesúvio sits far upriver in the Douro Superior, 120 kilometres from Portugal’s Atlantic coast and only 45 kilometres from the border with Spain.
It is one of the most magnificent properties in the Douro Valley. Historical records mention Vesúvio as early as 1565 but it was in the 19th century, under the direction of Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira, that this Quinta gained its legendary reputation. This formidable Douro lady bought the Quinta in 1823 with a vision and determination to build a vineyard on a scale never seen before in the Douro. In addition to building hundreds of terraces and planting thousand of grape vines, an adega (winery) was built. It took thirteen years to complete and within a few years Quinta do Vesuvio became widely regarded as the Douro’s finest property. In May 1827 she wrote “All the English have poured praise on my lodge and hold that they cannot find another adega to match mine in the Douro… stating frankly that both in Oporto and the Douro, nobody has better wines”
In 1989 Quinta do Vesúvio was acquired by the Symington Family and since then, some of the greatest Vintage Ports of the Douro have been produced here. Vesúvio has a total area of 326 hectares, of which 133 hectares are planted with vines. The rest has been conserved in its natural, wild state. Many other things grow at Vesúvio besides vines: oranges, lemons, figs, almonds, walnuts, grapefruits, pomegranates and many more exotic fruits and herbs.
Mafalda was already there and the table was laid for lunch. Dow’s White Port and tonic were mixed and drunk on the first floor balcony admiring the view across the Douro. “You must have mint leaves in your port & tonic” Mafalda insisted as we munched olives, nuts and Portuguese dry cured ham as we sipped the port.
Lunch was served. We ate Melon with ham, Duck rice, local Serra de Estrela cheese and seasonal fruit. Serra da Estrela is said to be ‘the king of Portuguese cheeses’ and has been made for centuries by shepherds in the mountains of Serra da Estrela in the Beira region. The sheep’s milk cheese is entirely hand-made. It is soft enough to be spreadable and has a rich, perfumed intensity. The affinage takes 30 to 40 days. We drank Altano White with the ham & melon – a crisp and fruity blend of Malvasia Fina, Viosinho, Moscatel and Galego made by the port house Dow. Pombal do Vesúvio Red was drunk with the duck. Vesuvio is predominantly a Port quinta but produces this high quality table wine with 60% Touriga Franca, 30% Touriga Nacional and 10% Arinta Amerasl, vinified in state of the art gravity-flow fermenters and matured for 10 months in 400 litre French oak barrels. The 2009 has received good scores from many critics: the vintage was given a score of 90 by Wine Spectator and was awarded Silver from the International Wine & Spirit Competition. The average price in the UK is £18. We finished lunch with 1996 Quinta do Vesúvio Port.
After lunch, Mafalda led us to the winery. We walked through small patches of vines and orchards next to the river, to the old adega. The ancient stone lagares had emergency toilets so that there was minimum interruption to the important task of grape pressing at harvest time!
It was very hot. We returned to the Quinta and sat in the elegant lounge, chatting, waiting for the train to Pinhao.
Symington Family Estates
Travessa Barão de Forrester 86
4431-901 Vila Nova de Gaia
T: +351 223 776 300
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MILES AWAY, Mafalda Nicolau de Almeida / Email: email@example.com / Cell Phone: +351 93 874 95 28
Address: Av. Dr. Artur Máximo Saraiva de Aguilar n.º 8 2.º Esq. 5150-540 Vila Nova de Foz Côa http://www.milesaway.pt