The production of cool climate wines in the south of Portugal, where in summer even the mercury is boiling – can that be right? Indeed it can. Quinta de Sant’Ana, a family winery in a picturesque village with whitewashed houses and a Baroque church, 30 minutes north-west of Lisbon, is doing just that.
The Lisbon region of Portugal used to be known for producing wines in quantity rather than quality, but this is beginning to change. Many boutique, family wineries, including Quinta Sant’Ana, are making huge strides in that direction and are tipping the balance in favour of quality.
The estate, set in softly rolling hills and profiting from cool breezes from the Atlantic has a rather romantic history. In the nineteenth century, King Dom Luís fell in love with a beautiful actress, Rosa Damesceno, and gave her the quinta as a present. He even had a theatre built for her in its grounds. The quinta changed hands many times before coming into the possession of Baron Gustav von Fürstenberg in 1969. He, his wife and seven children lived on the estate until the time of the revolution in 1974, when they fled back to Germany. In the meantime, however, the estate was saved and the story has a happy ending. Anna, one of the Baron’s seven children, returned in 1992 with her English husband, James Frost, himself from a farming family in Dorset, to reclaim the estate, which had been slumbering for years, and kiss it back to life. They now manage this fairy-tale quinta and have seven sons of their own in turn.
James and Anna have reawakened the quinta, renovating the estate’s buildings, some of which have been turned into idyllic holiday accommodation, such as the Lemon Garden, the old riding stables, set in a walled lemon orchard. What more could a romantic ask for? The estate also provides a backdrop to events such as weddings.
They produce a range of boutique wines, five red and five white, including six varietals, which reflect the quinta’s terroir. They have plantings of Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, Merlot and Pinot, which thrive in the surprisingly moderate climate, producing elegant and complex reds. The whites are Fernão Pires, Verdelho, Alvarinho, Sauvignon Blanc and, amazingly, Riesling. Their declared aim with the whites is to produce fresh mineral, textured gastronomic wines with a lengthy finish.
The crisp, mineral, citrus Rieslings certainly meet this criteria. All you need is some fresh Portuguese seafood to pair with them. A delicious treat.