Live and Let Live.
The next instalment from Karl, about our travels in Green Wine Country.
Travelling north from central Portugal to the green wine region requires us to drop down to the coastal plain and take our pick of the range of pay-to-drive motorways, or jostle with all the other motorists on the small old – but free network.
In Portugal the tolls can be quite appreciable and so the toll roads are mostly deserted or very quiet compared to the UK, if fact in can sometimes be eerily quiet – like driving along in a scene from Day of the Triffids – or some end of the world movie.
The main North-South artery the A1 isn’t like that at all! Between Aveiro and Porto it is relatively busy and the further towards Porto the busier it becomes.
Our first destination involved us driving towards Porto and then taking the ring motorway or CREP (Cintura Regional Externa do Porto) A41, which has recently been completed. This road is definitely of the eerily quiet variety and one wonders why it was built! It takes you east past the Star Wars-esque named Gondomar system into the urban hinterland of Porto. This area is dominated by Eucalyptus crowned hills above rapid and ugly unplanned urban sprawl. So it came as a surprise that as we left the motorway and joined the old N108 and followed the Douro river inland the scenery improved with every mile and the first gem of our project is Casa de Vilacetinho.
Casa de Vilacetinho
Nestling in the urbanisation and peering over to the River Douro is the green oasis of Vilacetinho.
Our first challenge was finding our way into the vineyard – an experience that was often repeated throughout this project! – but we strangely found a helpful brown Rota dos Vinhos Verdes sign, and then the large modernish Wisteria clad Adega.
The first thing that strikes you are the large Granite Chinese lions! And then the tranquility and calm that is Casa de Vilacetinho embrace you.
Despite it being a very warm day we set off to discover, explore and plan our walk.
We quickly felt that the vineyard is very special and just as the vines draw their personality from the earth where they are planted, and the conditions to which they are exposed, Casa de Vilacetinho has developed over the centuries adding genuine depth and character to the place.
At the heart of the Quinta and our walk are two dissimilar but beautiful buildings, the first – a family home, Quinta de Ventuzelas– is set in the most lovely of English style gardens, but in Portugal the scent from the jasmine clinging to the building was knockout!
The second building that lends its name to the estate is the – ripe for renovation – Casa de Vilacetinho an elegant manor house of the 17th & 18th centuries, overlooking the River Douro surrounded by an attractive formal knot garden that separates the house from the vineyards and the adjoining rich farmland.
Our walk also takes in the well labeled rows of vines including Avesso, the variety that has put Vilacentinho’s wine amongst the very best Green Wines and has produced a Silver medal award-winning Casa de Vilacetinho Colheita Seleccionada Avesso 2012 varietal wine in the 2013 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. Casa de Vilacetinho scooped a number of awards, including The Grande Gold Medal.
Avesso is a white grape variety grown throughout the Vinho Verde region, and especially near the Douro, where the soils are drier and more suited to this variety. The Avesso grapes produce fruitily aromatic, well-balanced and distinctly delicious pear-drops and fruity flavoursome wines.
We both enjoyed the vineyard, the hospitality of the owners and the delicious wines.
Moving back towards Porto on the busy A4 took us past the large plain modern towns of Penafiel and Parades before leaving the motorway for the quieter roads to Aveleda.
Quinta da Aveleda
Quinta da Aveleda is the home of one of Portugal’s most popular and well known green wines Casal Garcia (the bottle with the lace hankie designed label), and the major producer and exporter of white wine in Portugal.
So it’s on a big scale, but it manages to embrace the new without compromising the beauty of the estate and the grandeur of its old buildings.
Aveleda was for us like visiting a west of Scotland garden on a beautiful spring day. The sun was shining, the tall English oaks were just coming into leaf and beneath the canopy was a florid display of Azaleas, Rhododendrons and other spring flowers, the smells, and sights were unforgetable.
We walked around a magical and well maintained garden, enjoying its unique follies, lakes, fountains and glorious mature trees, including a flowering tulip tree.
If a place can have a green heart then this garden is it for Aveleda, it permeates the entire estate lending it a timeless calm.
As one of the country’s largest producers, it does have a slightly corporate feel and scale, but they do produce some great wines and their new single variety Alvarinho is worth seeking out and enjoying.
Our next visit – moving further North and inland! What do Quinta Mosteiro de Santo André de Ancede, Quinta de Covela and Quinta do Ferro hold in store for us?