Quinta da Pedra Alta
A recognized family winery with historical significance.
Only five years (1761) after the first demarcation of Portuguese wines, a royal charter was granted to the Quinta da Pedra Alta (place of high rock) the site of this International Series winery. For many years, the Quinta da Pedra Alta was the producer of extremely high quality ports and its name was prominently displayed of the bottles of various port houses.
Built on some of the most remarkable acreage in the world, the Quinta da Pedra Alta stands regally surrounded by terraced vineyards among some of the steepest hills and mountains in Portugal. Everything in the vineyards must be done by hand as it is impossible to get machinery in these uneven venues. It has been so for many centuries in the Douro Region and the fact that superior wines can be produced is a tribute to both the people who cultivate the land and the hearty grapes that overcome their circumstances to produce world class grapes.
Present day Quinta da Pedra Alta can be traced back some 175 years thanks to boundary maps and other historical factors. Some 75 years ago, the farm was joined with another high quality farm, Quinta da Cruz. The owners of the two entities were Antonio Leal and Maria da Conceicao Pinto, whose grandson runs today’s international winery operation.
A particularly interesting aspect of the estate is the existence of an original “mulda”, a Portuguese word meaning change. The place was the site of a station where riders changes horses on their journey from the north to south of the country or vice versa. In the old days, such a building meant the farm and its location was of great importance and the mulda has been carefully restored.
Jorge Eduardo Branco Pinto Leal is the owner of the Quinta da Pedra Alta’s 90 hectares (almost 225 acres) of planted vineyards and winery. A renovation program was instituted in 1995 was followed by another developmental project (a wine cellar) in 2001. Some ten years later, Quinta da Pedra Alta made the move and entered into the production of DOC wines for the Douro Region and other closely associated DOC’s.
The Quinta da Pedra Alta’s ascension into international competitions has produced some striking results. Numerous medals at some of the world’s highest competitions have made the winery on of Portugal’s leading wine entities. The well-respected Touriga Nacional Wine Competition in Portugal named Quinta da Pedra Alta one of the Ten Top Wineries in the Country. Considering the fact that the jury consisted of international wine figures, the designation is considered of the highest caliber. Also, the 2011 International Wine Challenge (IWC), considered the largest and arguably the most prestigious tasting competition in the world, named Quinta da Pedra Alta wine the Finest Portuguese Douro of the competition.
With a history of decades of winemaking experience and extremely high quality fruit to draw upon, Quinta da Pedra Alta is an exciting addition to our International Wine Club. Its wines will give you as a consumer, great insight into the depth and character of Portuguese table wines at the highest level.
João Pires - Winemaker
Winemaker for the Quinta da Pedra Alta winery is 31-year-old Joao Pires. Pires is a graduate of both the Universidade Catolica in Lisbon and the University de Tras-os -Montes e Alto Douro, located in Villa Real. His wine career began in 2005 when he trained in the north of Portugal during the harvest of a vinho verde crush. From 2006-2008, Pires was a winemaker in the South Central Alentejo Region, a southerly neighbor of the Duero. In 2012, he also assisted in a harvest during the early Australian growing season.
Pires is a firm proponent of elegant wines and soft tannins. He is well-known for his efforts in preserving and enhancing the characteristics of the terroir that set the Duero region apart from other Portuguese wine-producing areas. He is also dedicated to making wines with extended longevity while maintaining the structure and elegance for which his wines have become known.
The Douro Region, Portugal
The Douro Region is by and far Portugal’s most prestigious growing area. Known internationally for its famous Port dessert wines, the Douro is also the home to a large number of highly regarded table wines that have attracted international attention for the more than four decades.
The area takes its name from the winding Douro River that flows east to west , from the Spanish border to the City of Oporto, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. While the country has produced wines for thousands of years, the Douro Region traces its roots directly back to 1756, when it was declared the world’s first demarcated wine growing area. It is a sparsely populated, almost wild locale, but also an area of great beauty and majestic panoramic views at many levels.
It is also a proven fact that the area is a most difficult place to grow grapevines. There is relatively little available soil in this mountainous expanse to plant and many of the vineyards are located on steep, terraced plots that are almost impossible to farm. In addition, massive hard schist formations occupy the environment forcing growers to grind some three feet down to accommodate the vines. To make matters even worse, there is little water available for the plants and the ground soil contains few helpful nutrients.
Most importantly, the area is subject to drastic temperature ranges that affect the climactic and geographical aspects of the landscape. However, it is almost universally agreed that the grapevines flourish under these most exacting conditions. For hundreds of years, the finest ports come from the Douro and, lately, some of the country’s truly exceptional table wines as well. Top International competitions have proven for years that the Douro Region can be considered as Portugal’s finest producing wine area.
The most appreciated varietal grown within the confines of the Douro Region is the Touriga Nacional, a small cluster vine with high concentrations of sugar, colors and flavors that has begun to receive international attention and plantings in many other countries including California. The Touriga Nacional also possesses excellent aging potential that make it attractive both to wine collectors and restaurants as well. Another varietal, the Tinta Roriz, is widely planted and prized by wineries for its blending ability. Likewise, the Tinta Barroca (almost exclusively found in the Douro) is utilized for its smooth tannins and its resistance to pests and disease. These three varietals make up the bulk of the Douro Region’s table wine production.
A History of Portuguese Wines
Portugal can trace its wine existence back more than 2,000 years, beginning before the birth of Christ and owing to the occupation of Roman Legions that occupied the Iberian Peninsula. Even the name Portugal originated from the Latin word portus or port as it is known in today’s vernacular.
Even though the country has survived a number of conquerors (including the 7th century Moors whose religion forbade the use of alcohol), its wine tradition has remained relatively intact. For many years, Port (wine fortified with brandy) was the main export of the country and considered a great delicacy throughout the civilized world.
For the most part, Portuguese table wines were consumed within the confines of the country, and only exported in limited quantities. Then, sometime in the 1970’s or early 1980’s, a serious attempt at exporting Portuguese reds and whites finally took root to the delight of the wine consuming world. A number of these wines entered international competitions and won the plaudits of everyone involved.
In Great Britain, home to the most exacting international wine competitions, Portuguese table wines scored impressive marks that helped elevate the entire Portuguese wine industry. A number of smallish boutique wineries were formed and the existing classic wineries of the country also responded with a renewed interest in the quality aspect of their releases.
This was all part of the world wide wine boom that is still in effect to this time. Many other countries have also harbored small wineries that have made their mark on the world’s wine stage.
As far as Portugal was concerned, this growth period provided a platform whereby a unique price/value relationship was established throughout the world. Wine insiders considered Portuguese reds to be excellent values, particularly against their French Burgundy and Bordeaux counterparts. This relationship has remained until the present day and presents the wine consumer with an attractive alternative with regard to high priced wines from France and elsewhere.
Also, the Portuguese wine industry has been the scene of great modernization regarding its equipment and techniques, and today is home to many state-of-the-art winemaking facilities that are capable of producing world class wines.
It is apparent that top Portuguese reds and white are here to stay, and will remain so for many years to come. It is a pleasure to be able to introduce you to some of these remarkable Portuguese selections through our International Wine Club Series program.