In the beautiful vineyard of Quinta da Almiara outside Lisbon, near the Atlantic coast, visitors are treated to a tour of the winery, followed by wine-tasting and local snacks. No wonder the Constantinos family that own the winery like to boast that “people arrive as guests and leave as friends”. The vineyard also has an unusual approach to wine production, with the bulk going to other producers and bottlers. Only a small amount of the very best wine is kept for the few bottles that bear the Quinta da Almiara label.
“We have several grape varieties and we have quantity as well as quality,” says Quinta’s Fernanda Fonseca. “For our own wines, we concentrate on quality and have a very small number of bottles that we only produce when the winemaker decides that the wine is good enough for the label. The last bottling was in 2016.”
The wines are produced entirely from the 180-hectare vineyard’s own grapes, from varieties including Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouschet, Castelão, Merlot, Aragonez, Caladoc, Syrah and Fernão Pires. The wine is produced in handsome new facilities designed by architect Manuel Fernandes, with state-of-the-art computer systems and stainless steel vats that can store 3 million litres. This mainly goes to other producers; the exclusive wines that carry the Quinta da Almiara label are available only at the winery and a small number of local restaurants.
“We don’t buy any grapes and that allows us to maintain the quality at every stage,” says Fernanda. “We use the better quality of grapes for our brands, and these are Portuguese varieties. For the reds we use Touriga Nacional and for the whites it’s Fernão Pires. Another characteristic is that the white wine grapes are planted around 5 km away from the ocean. This means that if you come and try our white wine and then compare it with wine from a region like Douro that uses the same variety, it won’t taste or smell the same.”
The Constantinos family’s main business is cod, but they began buying land for wine in the 1980s. Despite the now vast size of the enterprise, it remains a family business at heart, with Jose Constantinos’s sons and grandchildren working at the winery. His grandson is currently training to be a winemaker and he hopes to embrace some of wine-making’s older traditions by showing visitors the way wine used to be made on the site.
“People used to bring the grapes into a big cement tank and crush them by foot,” explains Fernanda. “We still have those tanks, and we want to do events where people pick grapes by hand and stomp them by foot. We hope to make this experience possible, with food and music and a very traditional approach.”
The Quinta da Almiara label, however, will be reserved for wine produced with only the best of modern methods. “We have a market niche because we only make our own wine when we have amazing wine to put in the bottles,” says Fernanda. “People come to us because they want our wine and they know they can trust what is in the bottle.”