Saturday, 2 June 2012

Quinta do Vesuvio

Dona Antónia Adelaide FerreiraQuinta do Vesuvio has rocketed to fame during just a few years of ownership by the Symington family, who are well known to anyone who has more than a passing interest in what comes out of the Douro. Nevertheless, the estate has considerable history, starting with the Ferreira family who established the vineyard in the early 19th century. Of these the most notable is Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira, referred to locally as the Ferreirinha; she shaped, terraced and planted the vineyards, a task which reputedly took thirteen years to complete. And with the death of her husband, she continued to build on her success, establishing a domaine which was described by James Suckling, writing well over a century later in Vintage Port, as "The showpiece of the Douro". The quinta she built (is there no end to this woman's talents?) is an impressive building on the south bank of the Douro, midway between Numao and Lavandeira. It contained eight massive granite lagares, each holding twenty-five pipes of wine; not quite big enough for a game of five-a-side, but you could certainly have a good kickabout with a couple of mates.
The wines produced here in the 19th century were very well received. Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira developed her domaine, and her empire; she owned thirty separate quintas, and oversaw an expansion in her estate to over 400 ha, of which 100 ha was planted to vines, before her death in 1896. Her descendants managed the estate for the next century, but the property entered a period of slow decline, compounded by a number of disasters along the way. Phylloxera resulted in a loss of many of the vines, and these were replaced by thousands of olive trees which proved to be a bad business decision; they were quite unprofitable. The vineyard area declined, in part because some sites lying along the banks of the Douro were lost when the river was dammed in 1973. By the late 20th century this left the estate ripe for an injection of new capital and new enthusiasm. This 'showpiece' was purchased by the Symingtons in 1989.
Quinta do VesuvioThe Symington family, the clan responsible for some of Port's greatest names - Graham's, Dow's, and Warre's to name just three - have maintained Quinta do Vesuvio as a separate entity within their portfolio, and have sensitively blended some of the new winemaking techniques available with the traditional practices already in place. Temperature-controlled fermentation equipment has been installed, but the granite lagares, where the grapes are still trodden by human foot, remain. Of the 400 ha, about 100 ha remain planted, mostly with Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Francesca and Tinta Barroca. With such a large area of vineyard it is only natural that soils and microclimates vary, but the entire vineyard is classified as grade A. The ancient olive trees are also put to good use; there is Quinta do Vesuvio olive oil, as well as honey, almonds and oranges! The wine is bottled exclusively as a single quinta vintage Port, with quality maintained by strict selection; typically only 20-25% of Vesuvio's output goes into the wine each year. Although the total annual production of the estate is 575 pipes, the quantity of Quinta do Vesuvio released each year stands at a maximum of 50 pipes (it may be less depending on the vintage), the equivalent of 3000 cases. (13/4/05)

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