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Bodega Profile – Quinta do Gradil – VR Estremadura

Quinta da Gradil

Set among the Montejunto Mountains, between the villages of Vilar and Martin Joanes, the landscape is absolutely stunning. Rolling hills covered in pear and apple trees among miles of vineyards, the Portuguese winery Quinta do Gradil couldn’t have been situated in a more ideal location.

The current owners weren’t alone in realizing the value of the land as seen by the exquisite 36 room palace dating back to the 18th century. Although the lineage has not been directly proven, we were told that the palace was originally bought by the Marquis de Pombol, who is renowned for rebuilding Lisbon after the 1755 earthquake. To you and me, his name may mean very little, but it should, because if we consider the disasters we’ve experienced in US over the past century, nothing compares to what this poor guy had to manage with very few resources. This violent earthquake is estimated to have registered at 9 on the Richter scale, provoking not just your normal destruction of buildings, but also both a 20m tsunami and rampant fires. With thousands of bodies to be collected, the Marquis immediately took control asking people to quickly bury the bodies and rebuild the city.

Palcio de Marquis de Pombal

That is amazing leadership, and if this palace legitimately belonged to this man, I would consider it an honor to have it on my land.

But the story gets richer and more interesting, because Marquis was also a big proponent of wine, reportedly influencing his decision to settle on the Estate. However, in an effort to protect the vineyards, and the wine he so loved, the Marquis founded the Companhia das Vinhas do Alto Douro, establishing the first demarcated wine region in the world. He also produced a “vinho generoso” that was later recognized under DOC Carcavelos where the estate is now.

Quinta do Gradil remained in the family until approximately 50 years ago when the Sociedade Agricola da Quinta do Gradil was founded. Restructuring the vineyards to include primarily white varietals, it wasn’t until mid nineties when ownership changed hands that the Quinta truly took form. Called, Martim Joanes Gradil, it is currently owned by Luis Vieria, who we had the great pleasure of meeting during our recent trip to Portugal.

Quinta do Gradil estate

Luis Vieria is also the owner of Goanvi, one of the largest bottling companies in Portugal, and bought Quinta do Gradil as an opportunity to produce an estate wine. In this article, we focus solely on 3 wines elaborated by Quinta do Gradil, saving the wines elaborated by Goanvi, as well as the bottling plant for a later article.

Taking an hour car trip to their vineyard in the heart of Estremadura, it is hard to imagine how just fifteen years ago this region was essentially known for producing large quantities of low quality wine. Fortunately for us, this past decade has brought enormous changes to the area, such as new grape varietals planted based on their quality and not quantity. And as exemplified by Quinta do Gradil’s 2005 Berco do Infante, currently available in the States for around $6, this region is renowned for their good quality/price ratio.

Driving up to the Quinta do Gradil Estate, covered in lush green vines, you have a wonderful bird’s eye view of the 220 hectares, 110 of which are planted with native varietals such as Castelao, Aragonez, Tinta Muida, Alicant Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Arinto, Cercila and Fernao Pires, along with international varieties like Syrah. The remaining land has been allocated to patches of pine and eucalyptus forests, as well as pear, peach and apple orchards. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to taste one of their pears. While traveling from winery to winery, we’ve begun to make it a habit to try and taste at least one edible treat directly from the land. Sometimes it is a fresh grape almost ready to be plucked, and at other times, we may resort to an herb growing up alongside the rows of vines. Oh well, maybe next time!

Sulfites

After appreciating the majestic view of the Montejunto mountain sitting majestically in in front of the winery, walked up behind the palace to the most recently planted area of the vineyard. Hiking up the steep dirt path, I noticed a thin layer of dusty brown limestone soil gently coat my shoes. Noticing how dry the soil was, and being quite thirsty myself, I wondered how the plants were handling the extreme temperature and whether the heat and humidity were a normal occurrence in the region. I was told that although the heat came very late this year, the temperature – albeit high – is quite normal for the area. What hasn’t been normal is the amount of humidity that has been blanketing the region, forcing winemakers to take extra precautions against diseases such as botrytis, black rot and mildew. However if the heat continues in full force as it was during our stay, the vines will dry, providing a more stable environment and better conditions to ensure a successful vintage. We’ll cross our fingers for them!

In addition to the vineyards, we also toured their recently remodeled tasting room that was previously a horse stable. With high ceilings and several large bay windows, providing the perfect space to drink wine and relax year round, the room was gorgeous. And although open and airy, I felt very cozy sitting next to the copper fireplace and long banquette that divided the room into a quaint sitting and dining area. The sitting area is a combination of both rustic and modern design with big cushy leather sofas that crackle and squeak under my weight, yet still retaining very sleek and simple lines throughout the room. Whereas on the opposite side, stood two incredibly long wooden tables from which we sat and enjoyed both a tasting of their wines and lunch catered from their fully equipped adjoining kitchen.

Quinta do Gradil Lunch

The intention of the tasting room, along with their future plans to both restore the palace and create an open terrace that overlooks the fields is solely geared towards tourism. Granted, after visiting the winery, I’m under the impression that they’re unclear as to how this will all play itself out. I know they fully intent to restore the Palace to include areas where visitors can learn more about their wines and the history of the region, potentially a café/restaurant, and even rooms where someone can stay for the evening, but nothing has been solidified in stone as of yet.

Of the six wines produced by the Quinta, we can only share our tasting notes below on the Quinta do Gradil red and white and the Berco do Infante. Although we were not able to taste either the Cordello red or white, we look forward to trying them in the future. Below you will find our tasting notes.

Cheers!

Gabriella

D.O.C/V.R.: Vinho Regional Estremadura
Address: Martim Joanes Gradil, Pero Moniz – Cadaval – Portugal
Telephone: + 351 262 770 000
Fax: +351 262 777 007
Email: geral@bcvini.com
Bodega Founded: 1998
Hectares of Vines: 110 ha.
Grape Varieties Grown:
Red – Castelao, Aragonez, tinta-Miuda, Alicant Bouschet, Touriga Nacional and Syrah
White – Arinto, Cercial, Fernao Pires, Vital and Chardonnay
Production in Liters: 1,000,000
Winemaker: Carlos Lucas and Antonio Ventura
Wines Elaborated:
Quinta do Gradil white, Quinta do Gradil red, Cortello red, Cortello white and Berco do Infante
Importers: Dao Sul

Gabriella’s Tasting Notes

Quinta do Gradil 2006
White wine produced by Quinta do Gradil in Estremadura, Portugal
Note: Deep golden color showing a touch of wood and lush tropical flavors of cantalope melon, honey and pineapple. Creamy wine with bright acidity that sparkles on your palate with light notes of vanilla, peach and honey. This wine is ideal for grilled chicken, fish and even a dessert platter of mixed cheeses. Not heavy but enough backbone to hold it’s own.

3.5 grape

(Tasted on August 17, 2007)

Quinta do Gradil 2003
Red wine produced by Quinta do Gradil in Estremadura, Portugal
Note: Dark rich ruby color with an incredibly juicy, sumptuous, rich nose showing charcoal, grilled meat, dark chocolate, clove and cooked cherries. Medium acidity that hits you right in the center of the palate with fine tannins and great body. Great wine that when given time to open, literally explodes with rich cooked fruit. Fun wine that paired really well with our grilled meat!

4 grape

(Tasted on August 17, 2007)

Berco do Infante 2005
Red wine produced by Quinto do Gradil in Estremadura, Portugal
Note: Of the three bottles we opened from the same producer last night, I had thought that this would have been a jewel. Dark maroonish color that showed a slightly reserved nose of chocolate, black current, cinnamon and eucalyptus. That is what got me, the “reserved” part. Although I enjoyed the wine, and thought that it had both solid acidity and good structure, representing the region well, it didn’t wow me. Although given a bit of time to open, the fruit did show a bit more on the palate, yet I still felt it lacked a bit of personality.

3 grape

(Tasted on August 17, 2007)

Ryan’s Tasting Notes

Quinta do Gradil 2006
White wine produced by Quinta do Gradil in Estremadura, Portugal
Note: Oaky nose at first with strong melon and pineapple aromas. Medium acidity with malolactic creaminess. The palate offers, more pineapple, honey notes adn vanilla. With some time open this wine begins to soften up a bit and becomes much more enjoyable.

3.5 grape

(Tasted on August 16, 2007)

Quinta do Gradil 2003
Red wine produced by Quinta do Gradil in Estremadura, Portugal
Note: Dark black in color, inky at it’s core. WOW, big fat nose with rich bacon fat, dark spices, nice raw wood, and cassis. Wow what a succulent wine, though the tannins appear a bit green. Med-high acidity with a somewhat short finish. I’ll wait an hour before finishing this note. Full bodied wine that never fully smoothed out. Nice wine overall but a bit short of excellent.

3.5 grape

(Tasted on August 17, 2007)

Berco do Infante 2005
Red wine produced by Quinto do Gradil in Estremadura, Portugal
Note: Nice deep red color. The nose is tinny, with muted wood, strawberry, kind of muted flavors. On the palate it shows a medium acidity with pure cherry flavors, some of the strawberry notes, and very little tannin. Nice and simple with no flaws. Good roasted chicken wine, or even a nice with grilled veggies.

3 grape

(Tasted on August 17, 2007)

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