The Cistercian monks of the Douro lived peacefully, growing figs, olives, quince and grapes for wine. Hundreds of years later, their gardens remain as well as haunting stories of the past, often told over late night glasses of port…
Wine Making in the Douro
The history of the Douro region is closely linked to that of wine. The first traces of a vineyard go back to the Bronze Age. In the 13th century, Douro wines were brought by ship (the Barco Rabello from the Douro valley) to the city of Porto where they were then exported. As the popularity of Portuguese wine grew into the coming centuries, the sweet wine of the region became known as Port in 1675.
Under the reigns of Jose the 1st and of the “Marquis de Pombal”, the rules that define the wine making in the area were developed. On September 10, 1756, by a royal decree, the “Compagnie Générale de l’Agriculture des Vignobles du Haut-Douro” was created; an internal chart which regulates the prices, quality and the agricultural methods employed to create Port. As a result, the Douro region is one of the oldest A.O.C. in the world.
Today, the region is composed of 74,130 acres divided between 26,000 vineyards. Under the strict guidance of three separate professional offices: the “Casa do Douro”, the “C.I.R.D.D.” and the I.V.P. (Instituto do Vinhos do Porto) ports are ranked by quality with “A” quality ports the best in the world. Senhora Do Convento ports have the honor of being ranked “A” ports.
Tradition and Port Wine
Port has its roots in the northern vineyards of Portugal but it was the English who bought wine from the Douro region, added alcohol in order to stabilize it and shipped it by boat along the Douro River to Gaia in Porto. The term “Port” was created in 1675 by the English and Port wine was born.
Port wines are among the most famous luxury wines in the world. This rare wine is hand-picked from grapes grown from schist soils, on the magnificent hillsides in the Douro, Portugal. The Senhora do Convento Port wines have been produced for the past nine centuries at the Quinta do Convento in Tavora, Portuga, 100 km east of the UNESCO world heritage city of Porto. The impressive 12th Century Monastery still stands on the 150 hectare property overlooking a 27 hectare vineyard where the grapes for fine wines were originally grown by the Cistercian monks.
Today, experienced locals work the vines by hand. To allow for more modern winemaking techniques, the vineyard was replanted with traditional varieties recommended by the Port and Douro Wines Institute: Touriga Nacional, Francesa, Tinta Roriz and Barroca for red wines and Malvasia Fina, Gouveio and Viosinho for white wines. In 2006, a state of the art gravity flow winery was built adjacent to the monastery.
Among the numerous legends belonging to the monastery, that of Ardinga is the most romantic. The beautiful daughter of an emir from the city of Lamego, Ardinga fell in love with the a knight and the son of the King Ramiro, who came to the region to fight the Islamic people. To be with her love, she committed the ultimate in religious and cultural betrayal, Ardinga fled to the Douro monastery to convert to Christianity.
Ardinga’s plans were never realized. When her father, discovered her romance, he followed her to the monastery and in the struggle and rage that followed, Ardinga’s father beheaded his daughter. To honor her memory, a small chapel was constructed and is where her body remains today. Rumors of a woman dressed in white lace appearing in the monastery corridor close to the church are alive and well. Strange sounds and objects being shifted in the night have also been reported over the years.
Garden of ardinga
Between the fine slopes of vineyards and the woods of chestnut, cork, wild cherry, oak and pine trees, one can still discover almond, quince, cherry, peach, orange and fig trees; many which were planted by the Cistercian monks an age ago. Walkways entice visitors to step back into the past, take in the view and pluck a fig or orange along the way.
Breath-taking sights await you while you meander the well ordered vineyards surrounded by areas of wild lands with a glass of Senhora Do Convento Port in hand.