terça-feira, 24 de janeiro de 2023

Wine & Soul, Pintas and Quinta da Manoella, in the Pinhão river valley (I)

Versão PT aqui 

Summary of contents: 

Part I.

  1. It's a family affair and an independent wine business.
  2. The protagonists and the "new Douro". Tradition and modernity.
  3. In the beggining was the vineyard... where it all started, the "Pintas" vineyard.
  4. Vale de Mendiz, the Wine & Soul head-quarters and activity center in the Pinhão valley.
  5. The house spirit. The fascination for old vineyards, in search for the perfect vines in a special terroir. The potential of the Pinhão river valley. The vine before the wine.
  6. The "Pintas" old vineyard, the W&S emblematic vineyard. The vine characterization. The vineyard mapping.
  7. The other W&S vineyards, a puzzle.
  8. The Quinta da Manoella. Memory and some historical references. Description. The various "Manoella"...
  9. The Quinta da Manoella centenary old vineyard, the sense of place. The vineyard characterization. The work on the vineyard. The study and vineyard preservation. The other Quinta da Manoella vineyards.
  10. Nature and the importance of biodiversity.
Part II.
  1. After the vines, the wines. Vineyard winemakers, the identity of Wine & Soul's wines. The wine making.
  2. Markets and export.
  3. Discovering the wines. The D.O.C. Douro wines
  4. The indispensable attention to Port wines. Pintas vintage Port wine chart.
  5. Olive oil.
Part I.

1. It's a family affair, an independent wine business.

    Wine & Soul is a small wine producer from the Douro region, from Vale de Mendiz, in the Pinhão river valley (located in Cima Corgo Douro sub-region). It's an independent familly wine business that has just celebrated its first 20 years of activity and is currently a reference producer in the Douro and in the country. Over this last few years it ended up becoming a particularly admirable example, with its very own philosophy and identity that guides its activity towards the creation of special superior quality wines, as we will refer later, wines with "soul" and with a paradigmatic ability to combine a perfect sense of modernity with the respect for traditions and genuine ancient knowledge of the Douro region.

    We can define the guiding principle that is in its genesis as the respect and pursuit of the long wine making tradition of the Douro valley and the Douro terroir in conjuction with the current technical knowledge and the great responsability for taking care of this heritage for future generations. In the words of Sandra Tavares da Silva: 
"To respect the land, values and ancient traditions and make terroir wines, with great ageing potential. Today we are more experienced, we understand better the vineyards, which helps, but the most important thing is passion, and that is the same since the beginning."
Vale de Mendiz, in the Pinhão river valley.

    It all started 20 years ago, with the first harvest in 2001, that marked the beginning of Wine & Soul, with the dream and the stimulating challenge that the couple of wine makers, the "dynamic duo" Sandra Tavares da Silva and Jorge Serôdio Borges set themselves. The initial motivation was the desire to make together only one wine, not just any wine but a classic Douro red wine of superior quality, a perfect wine among the best of the region, as independent producers, not depending on anyone in the decisions to be made, to experiment at their own risk and solely with their own means to learn faster from their own project. An initial purpose that has been in permanent and consistent evolution.

    And so it was... both from wine related families, already with a lot of experience in the region and in different important wine producing houses, they started in 2001, buying grapes that from selected old vines from several areas in the Pinhão river valley, an historically famous valley in the Douro wine region for the quality of the vintages Ports it gave rise to. One of these special vineyards would later be acquired by W&S as we will describe next.
2. The protagonists and the "new Douro". Tradition and modernity.
   The protagonists of this story belong to a new generation of winemakers who arrived in the Douro and who were and continue to be responsible for a revolution and great transformations in the recent history of the demarcated wine region, which began in the 1990's, so-called the "new Douro" generation, a generation of winemakers that made the Douro wines (D.O.C. Douro table wines) known to the world, that promoted the wine region renewall and rebirth, that brought new technological knowledge, experience, development and modernity, well travelled winemakers and producers with broader horizons and new perspectives on the region's traditions and past. 2001 was actually the year in which the Douro wine region began to reborn, with the beginning of many new projects in the Douro, created from scratch in several quintas and also small producers. The Douro wines that until then were a marginal product when compared to the main Port wine production. It was undoubtedly a remarkable moment in the Douro recent history, a challenge based on the great technical and technological development and innovation, the knowledge sharing, union and mutual assistance between producers which allowed to make better wines every year and its promotion and internationalization, which were and still are crucial factors for the great success of D.O.C. Douro wines.
     The wine region offers to this new generation an extraordinary diversity and an immense set of very diverse characteristics to discover and explore, to learn and create, which are unique and not to be found in any other wine region of the world. Wine & Soul was one of those new projects, that became a success story that demonstrated the huge potential of the Douro, still relatively recent, to produce high quality D.O.C. Douro wines.
"The Douro has huge potential for table wine and there is so much still to discover from the region - we're only just scratching the surface of the Douro's potential and the best is yet to come." (JSB) 
The Wine & Soul wine cellar, the most photographed wall in Vale de Mendiz.

    Sandra Tavares da Silva (STS), studied agronomy at the Instituto Superior de Agronomia (Higher Unstitute of Agronomy) in Lisbon, where she completed a master's degree in agriculture, later deepening the oenology knowledge with a master's degree in Piacenza, Italy. From 1999, already in the Douro, she did an intership and was responsible for the oenology at Quinta Vale D. Maria with Cristiano Van Zeller, where she also met Jorge Serôdio Borges. Since 2000, she has been the winemaker responsible for her family's wines at Quinta da Chocapalha owned by Tavares da Silva family in Alenquer, in Lisbon wine region. She is also the winemaker responsible for the Quinta de Foz Torto wines in the Douro, and also produces the wines "Crochet" (D.O.C. Douro) and "Tricot" (Alentejo wine region) together with her friend and winemaker Susana Esteban, the partnership Esteban & Tavares. More recently, in December 2020, she was named one of the best winemakers in the world by british journalist and wine critic Jancis Robinson in her Finantial Times weekly column. She was elected winemaker of the year in 2021 by the "Vinhos Grandes Escolhas" magazine. In 2023, she was considered by the Financial Times to be one of the best winemakers in the world.


Jorge Serôdio Borges (JSB), belonging to the 5th generation of a family with a long tradition in the Douro region and in the Port wine production. His maternal grandfather was winemaker at Real Companhia Velha, and his paternal grandfather was the owner of several estates in the Douro, and he was one of the largest Port wine private producers (he was the main supplier of Churchill´s when the company was created in 1981 and until 1999 when this house acquired Quinta da Gricha), whose business was the production of Port wine with grapes from its properties, which after ageing were sold in bulk to the great British exporting houses.
    While studying oenology, he collaborated on family projects at Quinta do Fojo and Quinta da Manoella in the Pinhão river valley. To gain experience he continued his professional carrer in 1999, with Dirk Niepoort, in the production of Port and D.O.C. Douro wines. He started his collaboration at Quinta do Passadouro with which Dirk Niepoort was associated, and in 1999 he was responsible for the viticulture and oenology and then Director at Quinta do Passadouro until August 2019, when the quinta was acquired by "Axa Millésimes", also owner of the historic Quinta do Noval at Vale de Mendiz. He is also the winemaker at Quinta de Maritávora in the upper-Douro sub-region. He produces in the Dão wine region, the "M.O.B." wines (from "Moreira, Olazabal and Borges") in partnership with friends and also Douro winemakers, Francisco Olazabal (Quinta do Vale Meão) and Jorge Moreira (Quinta de la Rosa, Real Companhia Velha and Poeira). He was elected winemaker of the year in 2008, 2011 and 2016 by "Revista de Vinhos" magazine.
    They met during the 1999 harvest at Quinta Vale D. Maria and two years later they also began this life project in a territory that became common.
3. In the beginning was the vineyard...
where it all started, the "Pintas" vineyard.
    When, even before 2001, JSB and STS took the decision to produce together a Douro wine, the initial difficulty was to find the ideal vineyard and grapes that fulfilled all the defined requirements, and it was in an area of old vineyards in the Pinhão river valley, in the Cima Corgo sub-region, in the heart of an historic area of the Douro demarcated wine region, famous for producing great quality Port wines, which started looking for and later buying grapes from chosen specific plots of old vines, from a local producer. These were highly concentraded grapes that until that date were intended to supply the Port wine houses which were the main buyers.
    The vineyards choice in this particular Douro area is better understod as it is the place that JSB has known very well throughout his entire life and that has traditional old vineyards with good locations and exposures that ensure the necessary expression of balance, acidity and texture to the wines. 
    Two years later, in 2003, they would eventually buy one of those vineyards, a plot of special old vines, with a great diversity of autochthonous grape varieties, that later they would call "Pintas" and which became a reference vineyard for Wine & Soul. 
    That was the starting point, since then they have been acquiring other vineyards or vineyard plots in different locations of that same Pinhão valley, and have been dedicated to discovering, exploring and investing in the enormous potential of the old traditional vineyards of this valley and in the field blends with Douro native grape varieties, and then focusing on making wines of great detail and quality.
4. Vale de Mendiz, the Wine & Soul head-quarters and the acticity center in the Pinhão valley.
    After the first vineyard, in order to have control over the entire wine production process it would be necessary to have their own facilities so they don't have to vinify their wines in third party wine cellars. In those days Wine & Soul also acquired an old Port wine warehouse that had belonged to JSB family and have been abandoned for about sixty years in the center of the typical village of Vale de Mendiz, located about 6km upstream from the village of Pinhão, the geographical center of the demarcated Douro wine region. At that time the building was little more than a ruin of a wine cellar, with the roof falling and many delays in the recontruction works. Around the same time, with the harvest date set there was still no roof covering the wine cellar and it was such that in the day of the harvest the wooden roof frame was built but there were still no roff tiles on the top.
The view over the Pinhão valley from the visitor's center balcony, in Vale de Mendiz.

    Today, the winery building with white painted stone walls stands out in the center of Vale de Mendiz and is the Wine & Soul headquarters, the main center of its activity where the winery facilities operate, the first cellar which over the years has been carefully restored, renovated and extended, now integrating the D.O.C. Douro wine cellar, ensuring the ideal conditions and controlled temperatures in the areas intended for wine ageing through a system that refreshes the air using cold water (the Port wine cellar is located at Quinta da Manoella further up the valley), the vinification center, the "lagares" house with the old traditional granite lagares, the house offices and more recently an area for the reception of visitors and wine tastings (Wine & Soul wine tourism) inaugurated in July 2019 after recovering and adapting the space on the first floor of the building adjacent to the winery with a terrace with a privileged location overlooking the great nature, vineyard and quintas landscape of the river Pinhão valley. 
    In 2019, Wine & Soul also acquired the building of an old olive oil mill in Vale de Mendiz, next to the road that leads to the river Pinhão, which it transformed into a new winery to complement the original winery, for the vinification of Quinta da Manoella wines, allowing the vinification of all the grapes from this property, which until then was not possible with the capacity of the main winery alone. 

    Currently the Wine & Soul warehouse is located at Régia-Douro Park in Vila Real where the final wine bottle labeling and storing processes for the national distribution and export are carried out.
The entrance to the D.O.C. Douro wine cellar in the old warehouse in Vale de Mendiz.

5. The house spirit...

The fascination for old vineyards, in search for the perfect vines in a special terroir. 
The potential of the Pinhão river valley.

    Returning to previous point 3., as we mentioned, in 2003 Wine & Soul acquired its first vineyard, later named "Pintas", a special vineyard in the Pinhão river valley, on the left bank of the river, as well as the land where this vineyard was integrated with a total area of 2,5 hectares.

    In the years that followed from 2005 onwards, what turned out to be an irrepressible vocation, a constant dedication searching for old vineyads in the Pinhão valley (not exluding other locations), and identifying, recovering and preserving this cultural, genetic and landscape heritage that constitutes a unique resource of differentiation and quality, investing in the potential of these small parcels of historic traditional vineyards which are the "little treasures" of this valley and of all the Douro region, are the living testimonies of the region's long past. It is a work of rescuing exceptional vines with very special characteristics, in which concentration and originality are the main values and whose expression we wil later find in the wines they originate. These vines are the true soul of the wines. They represent what the Douro region and this valley in particular has at its best, special and unique, a long tradition with multiple autochthonous grape varieties mixed in the vineyards, which constitute a heritage that must be preserved and which also constitute a true "landscape architecture lesson".
"Pintas" vineyard (I).

The vine(s) before the wine(s).

    The vineyards above all, everything and all the work starts in the vineyard that are the priority and truly the house spirit and the differentiating element, through the appreciation of the originality of the old vines and their historical, cultural, environmental and landscape importance. These perfectly adapted vineyards express above all the place where they are born, the terroir, the character of the place, the soil and climate, the topography, the altitude and sun exposure, and the existing landscape and biodiversity. The role of the winemaker will always be to enhance that vine and terroir expression. Wines from old vineyards manage to demonstrate the terroir characteristics regardless of the quality of the wine growing year.

    Another curious aspect about this work with the old vines is the complementary and harmony that exists between each grape variety and in the final blend that is unique and cannot be reproduced in another vineyard elsewhere, which will reflect this place identity, the origin and its specific origin.
    Inseparable from these traditional vineyards is the respect for the empirical knowledge based on the experience of many years and generations which originated it and the responsability for preserving all its virtues and taking care of this legacy for the next generation entrusting them in a better condition than the one in which they were in.
    A key aspect to take into account is the experience and all the accumulated knowledge that has been acquired over the years especially in viticulture, not only in terms of the different vineyard parcels composition but also of their behaviour and evaluation of their consistency over the years and over several harvests, which is successively consolidated and is essential for taking all the important decisions at the right times.

    The choice of the type of viticulture practiced is another important element, which started out as sustainable and presently is organic viticulture without the use of herbicides or pesticides, preserving the natural balance, promoting healthy soils and local biodiversity and interdependence relationships between plants and animals.

6. The "Pintas" old vineyard, the emblematic house vineyard.

The vineyard characterization.
"Pintas" vineyard (II).

    As mentioned above, this was Wine & Soul's first vineyard. It is a single old vineyard plot. It was harvested for the first time for W&S in 2001 and subsequently definitely acquired in 2003. It was known before as the "Chão do Seixo" vineyard and later renamed "Pintas" (at that time "Pintas" was the name of the family's english pointer dog, which gave rise to the designation of the vine and wine).  But this designation can take on another meaning when the colors change in the great autumnal Douro landscapes in which the various vine grape varieties that make it up, display a very rich and dazzling variety of colors that reveal their differences, with the changing landscape and the profusion of shades of green, reddish brown, brown, yellow, gold and ocher.

    The Pintas vineyard is a very old historic traditional Douro vineyard, which was planted in the first quarter of the XX century, approximately in 1930, currently about 90 years old. It is a historic heritage with a total area of 2,5 hectares planted at an average altitude of approximately 341 meters, that varies between 250 meters at the closest point to the river Pinhão and reaches a maximum altitude closest to 400 meters at the highest point up the slope. It has a good location with ample and uniform sun exposure to the south and west (southwest), it receives more hours of sun, without shade but its location allows a good aeration which has a direct influence on slower and homogeneous maturation. Any possible excess of sun intensity is compensated by the freshness that the proximityh of the river Pinhão brings and through the control of the foliage of the vines.
    The soil on which it is planted is characteristicaly a very poor shale soil, shallow and with a lot of rock. Planted on a post-phylloxeric wide terraces with the general characteristics of this type of historic land organization, in which the soil and the vines are supported by wider walls of dry stone and slopping terraces, in this case with a slope of about 40%, with a capacity for a greater number of vine rows runing parallel to the terrace walls ("socalcos"), in a narrower compass, a low and wired supported vines with slate supports, a 19th century traditional system of supporting vines.
"Pintas" vineyard (III).

    The patient work carried out over the years made it possible to identify the vineyard composition, a field blend with a diversity of 40 different mixed traditional Douro grape varieties, as was done in the region in the old days, the rich old vine heterogeneity constitutes a natural heritage with a great genetic diversity, an "unrepeatable living laboratory" and high planting density, i.e., 6000 to 7000 vines per hectare in wich some varietiesare predominant such as Touriga Francesa, Touriga Nacional, a lot of Tinta Roriz and also some Alicantye Bouschet, but where the secondary grape varieties play also a very important role in the complexity and identity of the wines. Yields are very low, which will hardly reach up to 3000kg per hectare in the best years.

    Another curiosity of these vineyards worth noting is that several grape varieties mixed and with different maturation points, the vine behaviour when they are planted close together is extraordinary, the natural cycles tend to be closer, for example, the flowering phase occurs more close together than if the vines were planted separately, evidencing a homogeneity and a integration of the various different varieties and the approximation of the grape maturation points.

"A vineyard with its own identity, with a very strong personality, with a series of mixed varieties that is what is fantastic about the Douro vineyards, it is the immense grape varieties diversity we have.". (STS)

    A vineyard with very low yields which has an average production of approximately 1000kg per hectare, which over the years has shown a remarkable quality consistency and that is a good example of the originality, identity and distinctive character of the Douro old vines in which the grape varieties complement each other and the wine maker practically does not interfere.
    Since the first harvest and vinification in 2001 it became clear that this was a special vineyard with a unique profile. It originates the "Pintas" D.O.C. Douro and the "Pintas" Vintage Port wines, which express its various facets and that prove that the traditional Douro vines that were planted and dedicated to Port wine production also have the capacity to produce great Douro wines, despite the vineyard parcels from which the grapes came for each of this wine styles are well defined and delimited. The grapes from the parcels closer to the river Pinhão, at a lower altitude, about 250 to 300 meters  are destined for vintage Port wine and the grapes from the highest altitude plots to D.O.C. Douro wine.

    It is not just the vine to consider but also the surrounding environment, the landscape and the specific biodiversity conditions of the area where the vine is integrated, that it needs to be taken into account, in a context of a diverse intercut, polycultural landscape of varied geometry, with vineyards and small pockets of olive groves and scattered olive trees, a small original forest with several species of autochtonous flora, such as oak, black oak, cork oak, juniper, the strawberry tree, chestnut, holm oak, heather, the aromatic tuffs of rockroses and other species that contribute to a very unique microclime and ensure balance and natural harmony.
    It is important to understand that the Douro landscape is far from being composed just of vineyards, it's a natural area that must also be protected for the wine, vines and nature are inseparable and, as you can see, all these elements are in the origin of a very strong identity. But we will return to this subject later on, regarding Quinta da Manoella.
    Learning over the years with the biodiversity present at Quinta da Manoella led to a different look at the area surrounding the vines and the forest areas that had been initially acquired with the purpose of being uprooted to plant a new vineyard, a decision that made perfect sense initially, was later reconsidered to preserve the forest areas and mantain the nature influence and the ecosystem of the "Pintas" vineyard intact, privileging its identity.

The "Pintas" vineyard geographical references: latitude 41º13'45''N and longitude 7º31'29''W.
The view over the Pinhão river valley from the "Pintas" vineyard.

The vineyard mapping.

   A lenghthy project but essential to understand the specificities and to explore the vineyard potential, but also for its maintenance, renewal and replanting whenever necessary to fill the gaps and give new life to the vines that end up giving in to time, preparing and ensuring the future of this Douro legacy. Where each fault is replaced by exactly the same grape variety, with the same genotype, a reconstitution that is made with grafts from the very same plant that integrated the vineyard and which is perfectly adapted to the specific conditions of this location, preserving the genetic framework in the future and the complexity and heterogeneity that are its character, also allowing the possibility of replicating the vineyard composition. It is a project of precision which in the future will certainly be recognized and valued.
    Identifying all the grape varieties is a long, intense, arduous  and expensive task, but it is an indispensible work. In order to carry it out through ampelographic recognition, the accumulated experience of former field technicians who worked for the "Casa do Douro", the institution that controlled the production in the Douro wine region and whose task was precisely the identification of grape varieties on the field to then define the vineyard classifications.

7. The other Wine & Soul vineyards, a puzzle.

     In addition to the "Pintas" main vineyard, the constant search and investment in other old vines or small plots of dispersed vines, initially in the proximity of the "Pintas" vineyard, and which are at the origin of other D.O.C. Douro wines (of which "Pintas Character" is a good example). Also vineyards with a wide grape variety and the predominance of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Francesa, Touriga Nacional and Alicante Bouschet. In total there are now about 8 hectares of old vines with different locations and sun exposures, southwest, north and east, also varying altitudes between 200 and 450 meters, rich with 30 indigenous Douro grape varieties, which have been acquired and leased over the years at various points of the historic Pinhão river valley, in what is beginning to be a puzzle of small parcels and vineyards, mostly old vines along the valley.

    Currently Wine & Soul has a total vineyard area of 30 hectares, of which 18 hectares correspond to the Quinta da Manoella vineyards and 6 hectares of vineyards destined to the house white wines.

The vineyards for white wines. The demand for special vineyards initially led to the purchase of grapes and after to the lease and acquisition of vines in other areas. The secret is the special location, the knowledge of the vineyard locations in higher areas, in the hights of the Douro region, differentiating vines with the ideal conditions and the necessary freshness for the production of white wines, led to the identification of a 60 year old vineyard located in Porrais, in the Murça area, further inland and close to the border that separates the Douro from Trás-os-Montes province, planted in a cooler area in higher altitude terrains that varies between 600 to 700 meters also with a predominat north exposure, with a variety of soils in what is a transition zone already with the influence of granite, and vines planted in 100% shale soils, others in trasition areas with shale and about 10% granite and still others in totally granite soils, which are soils with the presence of quartz veins and sulphides that give minerality and intensity to wines. These soils have their very own characteristics, light textures and are poor and acidic with a reduced capacity for water retention, elements that in conjunction with the altitude and the diversity of typical indigenous white grape varieties from the tradicional old vineyards proved to be perfect for white wines.

The Pombal de Ansiães vineyard, is a village in the municipality of Carrazeda de Ansiães, a recent vineyard acquired at the end of 2019, also destined for white wines, a very small traditional old vineyard, with a record of existence since at least 1932, but certainly earlier, supported by pre-phylloxeric granite walls, with a mixture of different grape varieties, planted in soil with a predominance of granite, at an altitude of 600 metres. With the interesting curiosity of being crossed by a Roman road.

    Currently there are a total of 14 plots of white grape vineyards geographically scattered across four villages. They are small or very small vineyard parcels (the most recent is a parcel fo just 0,1ha) in classic areas which in the past produced grapes for white Port wines with a great ageing potential and which today revelas itself as a region that is beginning to be recognnized also for its potential for the production of great quality white wines.
The vines for white wines ("guru"), in Murça. (source: Wine & Soul).

The "Altar" vineyard. Formerly called Quinta da Vinha Grande, it is a property with a total area of 27 hectares. The latest project by Wine & Soul, it is a quinta that belongs to an aunt of JSB, located in Fermentões, the vilage where JSB grew up, on the Sabrosa plateau. This vineyard is planted in 100% shale soils and has a vineyard area of 2,7 hectares with a predominant exposure to the north, at an higher altitude of about 600 meters, hence its designation "Altar" vineyard, it's like an altar with a privileged view facing the Douro landscape.
    It's a place where vineyards have always existed for the production of white wines, Port wines and table still wines. This new vineyard was recently planted, seven years ago with three white grape varieties, where Viosinho predominates, but also Gouveio and Arinto. The vineyard trellis and training system is traditional, a different option from the systems followed and popularized in more recent Douro vineyards. The vines are surrounded by forest, mainly Mediterranean forest and chestnut trees which are actively managed with the development of a biodiversity project. In addition to grape vines, thare are many species of trees among which we can also find the omnipresent olive groves, chestnut and cherry trees and a recent plantation of almond and hazelnut trees, pines and stone pines, of more than two thousand trees.
The vineyards at Quinta do Merouço, located in Castedo do Douro. (source: Wine & Soul).

Quinta do Merouço. It's a small vineyard located in Castedo do Douro, close to Graham's Quinta dos Malvedos (located a little further upstream after the river bend), on the right bank of the Douro river in the trasition zone between the Cima-Corgo and the Upper Douro sub-regions It's planted in terraces at an altitude between 121 and 258 meters in shale soils with a predominant south and soutwest exposure, therfore receiveig more daily hours of sunlight. The grapes that grow here are destined exclusively for the house's Port wines.

"to give expression to vineyards, respecting the identity and the personality of each one of them.". (JSB)

8. The Quinta da Manoella.

Memory and some historical references.
The view from Celeirós do Douro to Quinta da Manoella - the white building on the background in the center of the photo, on the opposite slope of the valley.

    Quinta da Manoella is a centuries-old Port wine traditional quinta, it's an old heritage property of the Serôdio Borges family, since the 19th century- was part of a series of quintas that the family owned - full of family memories of five generations and in which Jorge Serôdio Borges grew up.
    Eight years after the start of Wine & Soul, in 2009, through inheritance, the opportunity arose to buy the property that became part of the project and incorporated the set of the house's properties, as well as an important stock of old tawny Port wines. It represents the strenghtening of the link with the past and the long Douro region tradition.

    The quinta was already referenced on the famous Joseph James Forrester's map "Mappa do Paiz Vinhateiro do Alto Douro / Map of the Wine District of the Alto Douro", dated 1843. The original property designation as it is on this map "Manoella" was adopted again.

    The brief reference in the book "Quintas do Douro", 1941, by J. Alcino Cordeiro: "Quinta da Manuela: parish of Vale de Mendiz, municipality of Alijó. Owner: Mr. Manuel António Sousa Serôdio.".


    It is a traditional Douro quinta, fouded in 1838, date engraved in the wall of the main house of the property - celebrates 185 years. It has a simple and functional sructure. In a very special location, on the slope of the left bank of the river Pinhão, a few kilometers upstream from the village of Vale de Mendiz and about two kilometers upstream from the "Pintas" vineyard. Historically a property dedicated to the production of grapes for Port wine but without its own brand. Wines that where stored and then sold in bulk, after the harvest, to the great english trading houses that exported Port wine, which were supplied by farmers and Douro vineyard land owning families. A part of the Port wine produced was aged in the quinta's wine cellar, as a way of valluing and creating added value. Quinta da Manoella was one of the estates that favoured the production of tawny Port wines.

    Jorge Serôdio Borges great-great grandfather was one of the Douro visionaries during the phylloxera period in the mid 1860's. He took the decision to buy many quintas that were being abandoned and at one point he had more than 30 properties in the Douro wine region, most of them in the Pinhão river valley and Quinta da Manoella was one of them. In this family connection to the region, JSB's grandfather owned several quintas and until 1985, the legal requirements in force imposed the obligation to export Port wine exclusively through the Vila Nova de Gaia "Entreposto" area, which in practice prevented Douro farmers and producers to bottle and market their own wine.

    Quinta da Manoella has a total area of 60 hectares of which 20ha are dedicated to vines of different ages, altitudes and sun exposures, that extend to the Pinhão river, right at the bom of the valley. 
    Exposes a "simple but very authentic and special atmosphere" that reveals the history of this century old quinta. The location and the natural environment that surrounds the quinta is extraordinary, the landscape, the leafy and fresh surroundings of the forest, the set of vineyards and the centenary vineyard parcels, the architecture of the terraces and soils, the olive grove, trhe orchards and the vegetable garden. Next to que quinta main house there's also an apiary that has fifty beehives for honey production which is also a tradition in the Douro quintas, also recalling the important role of bees in pollination.
    It is inside the main house building of Quinta da Manoella that the old Port wine cellar and warehouse is located, which is felt, in fact, by the aroma that you can smell even from the outside and surrounds the quiunta house. In the quinta wine cellar, the old portuguese chestnut casks rest on stone beds and the smaller capacity oak barrels, some recovered and others purchased, where the house's Port wines are aged in cooler conditions and good humidity. Over the years, little by little, the stock of aged Port wines that was created is being increased. Meanwhile, a temperature control system was installed in the Port wine cellar for uniformity and perfect conditions for Port wines to age.

    Progressively restoration work has been carried out in the vineyards old terrace walls and one of the next investment plans will be the restoration of the main building house of the Quinta da Manoella.

The various "Manoellas"...

    In all probability, the quinta would be made up of several separate properties that correspond to different owners or different families, since there were several "lagares" in several different locations of the quinta, which is contrary to the traditional system in which the "lagares" usually only existed in the wineries of the main house buildings. On the road leading to the main house there are several ruined houses, some of which were certainly warehouses and wine cellars. Another of these indicators are the olive trees, which traditionally in the Douro region marked and divided the borders and establish the divisions with the neighboring properties. Yet another original feature is the fact that there are several other buildinds scattered around the estate, similar to the traditional architecture of a Douro quinta main house which as these indicators show, could have constituted main buildings or autonomous properties in the past.

9. The Quinta da Manoella centenary old vineyard, the sense of place.

    Of a total vineyard area of 20 hectares on Quinta da Manoella, along with the younger vines around 30 years old and others even more recent, planted here on steeper terrains on the left slope of the valley where the river Pinhão flows, largely surrounded by forest, in an area of approximately 5 hectares there is an extraordinary centenary old vineyard, about 120 years old, where there are some vines that are certainly over 150 years old. It was planted by JSB's great-great grandfather and the pre-phylloxeric terraced walls that support it are certainly over 200 years old. A vineyard that is even more special when we know it was recovered from its initial state of almost abandonment and the period of decay it went through in the last century 80's and 90's, to be preserved for the future.
A parcel of Quinta da Manoella centenary old vineyard.

    This is one of the great examples of the great Douro terroir, a living testimony of the region's past, this magnificent centenary old vineya is the ex-libris of the property, a vineyard full of history that represents an important repository of practices and ancestral traditions, with a characteristic landscape architecture, typical of an historic Douro vineyard that constitutre an incomparable natural heritage in the varied landscape.

The vineyard characterization.

    The vineyard is planted on sloping terrrain at an average altitude of 250 meters with an amplitude between 190 meters at the bottom of the valley and over 360 meters at its highest point. Planted on a terrain with a much more pronouced slope and a south and southeast dominant exposure. It's a rustic vineyard, a good example of an old historic Douro vine, the so-called first post-phylloxera vineyards planted in pre-phylloxeric terraces (prior to the plague that devastated the Douro, detected in 1863) in which the soil is supported by very old low dry stone walls, in general of rustic and rough construction that forms narrow terraces, closely spaced and with an horizontal plane, in shale soils where the soil was obtained from rock and the area available for the vines is limited and admits only one or two vine aligments. The terraces communicate with each other by small stone stairs and the vine rows run parallel to the terrace walls. The vine rows are conducted in a low wired system with a high planting density for maximum use of all available land space with a very short distance between vines. 
    It was planted with an intentional and remarkable variety of native traditional Douro grape varieties, which constitute a valuable heritage of 30 indigenous different grape varieties perfectly adapted to this place, that have a very low production level and make up a very unique, particular and exclusive terroir. 

    This great variety makes it possible for different grape varieties to complement each other during vinification and produce original and special, complex and concentrated wines, which convey the identity of the vineyards. In this repository, the predominant grape varieties are interesting and very different from those identified in the "Pintas" vineyard or from other nearby old vineyard parcels that are at the base of the "Pintas Character" wine, for example. Some of this varieties are Tinta Francisca, Rufete and Tinta da Barca, what started out as a perplexity, then it was understood considering the history of the region and the historical purpose of this specific vineyard and the contribution of these grape varieties that have less concentration and greater aromatic intensity, more floral aromas and more tannin and greater acidity for the specif production of tawny Port wines destined to be aged for many years and to be sold to the Port wine exporting houses. 
     We must not forget that the great grape diversity present in the Douro old vineyards was initially designed for Port wine production, because it was the wine that best adapted to the conditions of these areas. Now it's proved that the same vines that over the years have been the basis of famous vintage Port wines also give rise to extarordinary Douro D.O.C. wines. 
    In addition to the cooler micro-climates generated by the influence of the forest, the shale soils here have a different composition, they are richer and deeper and with a very high organic matter content, which allows for greater water retention, more moisture in the soil and longer maturation cycles, consequently wines will develop a diffrent style. These soils are completely different from the shale soils of Vale de Mendiz, further downstream where the other vineyards are located.

The work in the vineyard.

    The old Quinta da Manoella vineyard parcels, like all the great Douro old traditinal vineyards in which the ancestral practices are maintained, requires enormous dedication and intense hard work and all the work needed is manual and many hours of essential and very specialized labor, a lot of time and care since on these ancient terraces more than two hundred years old, there is no possible mechanization. The great plantation density and short distance between vines makes it essential to resort to animal traction to carry out the numerous tasks such as turning over the vineyard soils. All these conditions that are  absolutely unavoidable and expensive represent a large percentage of the total production costs since skilled labor force in the wine region is uncreasingly scarce and at an high cost.
    Every year progress is made in the effort of restoring the quinta's buildings and reconstruction of terraces, recovering and replanting vines whenever necessary.

    It is really necessary to know the quinta and its property, the vineyards and the scenic surrounding landscape to understand this very special in the Pinhão valley.

The study an vineyard preservation.

    The centenary old vineyard of Quinta da Manoella, as in the "Pintas" vineyard, has been subject of a detailed study over the years to identify and classify the diversity of the traditional grape varieties present. So far 30 different grape varieties have been identified with the curious predominance of Touriga Francisca. A study that is fundamental, as mentioned before, also to ensure its preservation, renewal and so too its future for the next generations, maintaining the variety, richness, and the complexity of the varieties that comprise it,  conserving the genetic heritage and avoiding its permanent loss. This mapping and vine identification in addition to having allowed the "discovery" of some curiosities such as the rare Touriga Rosa grape variety, will also help to make decisions in viticulture and oenology more adapted to the vineyard composition.
    Here, viticulture plays a fundamental role in the pursuit of that objective and in the ongoing plan to recreate by replicating the quinta's old vineyard, an ampelographic field in which the existing genetic material from the various varieties from the old vines that have been identified and cataloged so that they can be renewed whenever necessary to fill the gaps of the vines that die in the meantime and have to be replanted with grafts that were taken from the plant itself.

The other Quinta da Manoella vineyards.

    The Quinta da Manooella centenary vineyards just described are surrounded by other more recent vines, from the outset approximately 12 hectares of vines planted in the 1970'S and early 1980's by JSB's father with only five grape varieties, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão and Tinta Barroca which are the current base for the Manoella red and rosé D.O.C. Douro wines.

    The "Vinha do Rio" (the River Vineyard), planted in 2010 along the bank of the river Pinhão, was the first vineyard planted from scratch by the current producers, and consistes of just 1/2 hectare of Touriga Nacional whose vines are the result of a mass selectoin, i.e., a selection of severfal vine clones from the best plants of the same variety existing on the quinta, but of different qualities with rootstocks originating from the old vines, to continue this heritage on a new vineyard.

    Even more recently, 3 hectares of vines were planted in 2016 with the objective of replicating the random grape varieties of the century old vineyards.

The Alecrim vineyard is a small parcel of the centenary old vineyard, one of the first post-phylloxera plots to be planted at Quinta da Manoella, close to the winery. Here, in addition to the proximity of the forest, JSB's great grandfather planted a rosemary tree next to the vineyard - which now gives this vineyard its name - and which had the function of attracting bees and promote pollination.

10. Nature and the importante of biodiversity.   

The vineyard alongside the forest and the forest alongside the vineyard.

    In the Quinta da Manoella landscape it is possible to feel the presence and harmonious coexistence of nature and vineyards. In addition to olive groves, there is a significant uncultivated area with an original forest surface consisting of an extensive and dense spontaneous wild forest typical of the Douro region, which in part occupied the old pre-phyloxera vineyard terraces (called "mortórios"). It is a native Mediterranean forest with an area of almost 30 hectares, a protected and preserved area that is also a landscape heritage with an unusually large extension for the region and that represents a nature reserve with great environmental value and important for biodiversity, achieving environmental  enrichment, greater ecosystem balance and a continuity of natural habitats. Certainly one of the Douro quintas with a larger dominant forest area.

    In general, biodiversity and polyculture are also the identity of the Douro valleys which in reality are heterogeneous, a complex mosaic in which, in addition to the different architectural solutions of the terraces, and in which there is a discontinuity of vegetation patches and not a uniform landscape consisting only of vineyards.

    This natural reserve favors and shelters the existence of natural habitats where a wide variety of species of flora and autochtonous vegetation thrive, from the more imposing trees, shuch as oaks and cork oaks, maritime pines, junipers, holm oaks, strawberry trees, holly, a wide variety of shrubs including heather, rockrose (cistus) and lavender, as well as diverse fauna, with several game species typical of the region, such as partridges, wood pigeons, doves, wild rabbits, wild boars and foxes.
    In turn, the old vineyard terraces dry stone walls are also strongholds of biodiversity, also places of shelter for various species of flora and fauna, various species of reptiles (snakes and lizards) and mammals such as the hedgehog and shrew, birds and insects.

    Biological diversity and all these complex ecological elements have a direct influence on the environment and microclimat of this place, they are fundamental for richer and healthier soils, they ensure a balanced management of water and soils, which better preserve humidity and influence the tempetrature in this specific area and, obviously, in addition to enriching the landscape they also value the vineyards, which here have longer maturation cycles and bring freshness and humidity to relieve the vines from the intense Douro summer heat.
    It was from this experience at Quinta da Manoella and the teachings of this balance interms of biodiversity and its decisive influence on the climate, temperature regulation and humidity maintenance, that later led to look at the other vineyards and their locations in a different way too, specifically the "Pintas" vineyard and the adjacent nature and small woods, that initially where lands designed for expansion of the vineyard area. A plan that would be abandoned in favor of the solution of conserving the surrounding nature maintaining the existing biodiversity  and the protectoin it gives to vines, a fundamental purpose when today biodiversity is being lost at an accelerated pace.

Wine & Soul: the company's center of activity, winery and visitor center
Avenida Júlio de Freitas, Vale de Mendiz
5085-101 Pinhão

enoturismo@wineandsoul.com - marketing@wineandsoul.com
phone.: +351 254 738 076 - mobile: +351 93 616 14 08
(geographical references: latitude 41º13'18''N and 7º32'01''W)

Quinta da Manoella
(geographical references: latitude 41º14'58''N and 7º32'03''W)
(to be continued later...:)

Part II.

1. After the vines, the wines. Vineyard winemakers, the identity of Wine & Soul's wines. The wine making.
2. Markets and export.
3. Discovering the wines. The D.O.C. Douro wines.
4. The indispensable attention to Port wines. Pintas vintage Port wine chart.
5. Olive oil.
The D.O.C. Douro wine cellar, in the old warehouse in Vale de Mendiz.

Text and photos ©Hugo Sousa Machado

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Churchill's and Quinta da Gricha


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