Seven Centuries of Winemaking
It all started in the 15th century, more specifically on February 14, 1492, date of the oldest royal documents where Quinta do Gradil is referenced. Winemaking in the region has a longstanding tradition. There is a document dated April 28, 1278, mentioning a man named "Martinus Johannis" who was selling a vineyard.
In the 16th century, the property abounded in game and it was one of the estates elected by royalty as a hunting ground. However, it was only in the 17th century that vineyards and wine became important economic activities, with the city of Lisbon representing the main destination of the generated production. In the 18th century, King Joseph I of Portugal ordered all the vines in the region to be grubbed up, so that cereal crops could be grown, as well as favour the interests the Marquis of Pombal had in the Douro region. After several complaints from local farmers, in 1769, a survey at Quinta do Gradil and surrounding lands recognised that they were more appropriate and important for the production of good wines than bread. This was a decisive moment in the history of Quinta do Gradil. The second most decisive moment occurred in the 19th century, with Ms. Maria do Carmo Romeiro da Fonseca being the protagonist. The young woman inherited Quinta do Gradil from her father, who had bought it, and turned it into a leading farming business, focused on winemaking. The entrepreneur was born in Sanguinhal in 1829, into a family that was already making and selling wine. She commissioned the construction of the main house and the yellow palace, transforming the land not only into a winemaking space but also into a leisure area. Even after she was widowed and with a small daughter, she kept a spirit of entrepreneurship and had an unusual attitude at the time, that is, a working woman and manager, who was not confined to her home and to care for her family. The aqueduct and the chapel of St. Rita of Cascia were also built during this period. The connection to the Marquis of Pombal first appears in the history of Quinta do Gradil through Maria do Carmo’s daughter, who was named after her mother, when she married the 6th Marquis of Pombal. In 1963, the estate was managed by Isidoro Maria d'Oliveira, a farmer, who was also a man of culture and poet, but also a vintner, who kept the activity, with Quinta do Gradil as a significant supplier of wines to the Lisbon market. The 21st century marks the entry of Luís Vieira into the business.
After completing the historical survey of Quinta do Gradil, which led us to revamp its image and invest in new wines, we realized that a handful of rich and interesting figures had set their mark over the centuries. Martinus Johannis was one of the eight settlers who settled in the region of Cadaval in the post-Christian reconquest period. He was the first to believe in the terroir of Quinta do Gradil, planted the first vineyard, and built a wooden trellis, as fences were made at the time, to delimit and protect the property. Later on, as per a royal document dating from February 14, 1492, King John II of Portugal donated the county and properties of Cadaval to Don Martinho de Noronha, according to letters patent, which included the Quinta do Gradil. After the death of King John II, King Manuel I ascended to the Portuguese throne, and Don Álvaro de Bragança became the landlord of Cadaval. "E assy a dita quinta do gradil elle nos leixou e despejou livremenete pera nos darmos E confirmarmos todo a dom alvaro meu muyto amado primo, cuja alma deus aja" *National Archive of Torre do Tombo, Leitura Nova, Extremadura, book 11, pages 103-104v. Then in the 18th century, more specifically in the years 1765 and 1766, two orders issued by King Joseph I of Portugal decreed the grubbing up of vines in certain areas of the country when cultivated in floodplains that we were deemed suitable for cereal production, a measure that would significantly affect the county of Cadaval. However, a survey conducted at the time on some lands in the county found that they were suitable for producing good wine blends. The farmers who opposed the removal of the vines made such claim. "Because the wine they made was much sought after by merchants, either to blend with others of inferior quality or to be sold later because of their good level of conservation". Meanwhile, in 1843, Francisco António da Fonseca, one of the most important winemakers and merchants in Extremadura, decided to buy Quinta do Gradil, which was called Casal do Gradil back then. However, his daughter Ms. Maria do Carmo Romeiro da Fonseca and son-in-law Joaquim José Fernandes, a prominent capitalist and director of the Bank of Portugal, turned Quinta do Gradil into a successful farming business. Their daughter, Maria do Carmo, who married António de Carvalho Daun e Lorena, Count of Santiago, who went on to become the 6th Marquis of Pombal, a descendant of Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, continued the activity. After being owned by the Marquises for a long time, a poet appeared in the 20th century, who used to write lyrics for fado songs, such as "Saltimbancos". Currently, we have Grandfather Ganita and his grandson, who followed into his footsteps, wanting to do things even better: Luís Vieira.
Luís Vieira learned with his grandfather, António Gomes Vieira, a.k.a. Ganita, the tricks of the trade. However, it was on his own that he embraced the dream of owning an estate so that he could make quality wines. In 1999, he learned through António Ventura, a vintner on the estate at the time and a long-time collaborator of the family, that Quinta do Gradil was on the market for sale. He then purchased it and invested in a complete renovation of the vineyard, the production of superior wine brands, targeting the upscale market segment and the development of a combined enotourism strategy. Based on its centuries-old history, Quinta do Gradil is today a modern brand, where wine and tourism meet to offer an unforgettable wine experience to demanding customers. Quinta do Gradil is a leading brand amongst the Wines of Lisbon, due to its diversified range, aimed at the medium and upscale market segments, and a carefully crafted image.
At Quinta do Gradil, our work team is as important as the historical legacy of the estate. The team that opens the doors and welcomes, but also the team that is working in the field and winery every day, and even during the most difficult of times, the current Covid-19 pandemic, did not go home. The never-ending cycle of winemaking is movement, life, has a time of its own and requires daily attention and care. That is why there must be a dynamic, flexible and active team behind it. Winemaking demands love and dedication. Most members of our team are youths, but they are also people who have grown up in its nooks and crannies, with their roots. Therefore, they bring with them many stories to share. We are proud that is precisely our team, the people, one of the best memories that our visitors can take home. Thus, this strong team spirit will always be our greatest asset.
Tiago Correia is the winemaker at Quinta do Gradil. Together with Bento Rogado and an experienced multidisciplinary team, who works for the whole group, he takes care of the vineyards on the estate. In addition to a comprehensive vision of all business areas, which is important for placing a wine on the market, Tiago Correia, with his experience in Carcavelos wines, is a fine worker who has thorough understanding of the winemaking process. At Quinta do Gradil, the making of a wine begins in the vineyard. The raw material collected in each harvest determines the winery practices, always trying to preserve what Mother Nature gives us. The various vineyards have their potential perfectly identified and the grapes are then worked accordingly. Some are destined for the Quinta's table wines that are vinified in greater volume. Others are destined to varietal or reserve wines, whereas others are set aside for our rarest and most special projects. Hence, the professionals at Quinta do Gradil have state-of-the-art viticulture and oenology technology at their disposal, although they do not reject more traditional practices, such as manual harvesting and/or stone winepresses.
Clay and limestone form the basis of the estate’s soils, where we find a great diversity of white and red grape varieties. Some are native to the region or have acclimatised there for centuries, giving rise to wines with a strong regional character, such as the emblematic white grapes, Arinto and Fernão Pires. Other varieties have been grown more recently, turning out to be a pleasant surprise, due to their extraordinary adaptation to this terroir. This has happened with white grape varieties such as Viosinho, Alvarinho and Sauvignon Blanc and the red Tannat. Chardonnay, Syrah, Alicante Bouschet and/or Touriga Nacional, for example, are "all-terrain" grapes, which have always shown great quality and consistency at Quinta do Gradil.
Quinta do Gradil is located right at the foot of Serra de Montejunto (a mountain range). We can surely affirm that we are on an island of biodiversity in the heart of Western Portugal. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the area around Quinta do Gradil and Serra de Montejunto was extensively forested with very complete and varied grounds: the common box, the kermes oak, the Portuguese oak, the wild olive tree and aromatic plants such as the common lavender, French lavender, thyme, rosemary and mastic trees. The King considered himself the Lord of the many woods that complemented the human settlements of the county of Cadaval. Some of them, as well as their plants and game were even protected by the Crown. Deer, partridges, hares, rabbits and foxes were easily found. Today, this wealth is still there and we wanted to pay tribute to it on our wine labels. Among the many different species that we can find here, birds are especially important, for their diversity and rarity. Approximately 75 bird species nest here, 10 of which are deemed endangered by the Red Book of Vertebrates in Portugal. The Bonelli's eagle, the eagle owl and the Alpine swift are considered rare at a national level. As far as flora is concerned, about 400 plant species have been identified, which constitutes about 15% of the flora of mainland Portugal. Some species are facing threat of extinction such as an orchid that only exists in Montejunto and Trás-os-Montes.
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