It Ain’t Just Grapes

Olive grove at Tua on old northwest facing terraces
Arlindo's kale at Malvedos
Bumper crop of pumpkins and squashes at Vale de Malhadas

On average, Graham’s quintas have vineyards over about half of the land.  What’s on the other half?  Lots of things.

This landscape doesn’t lend itself to monoculture – too vertical, rocky and unuseable in too many places, which have been allowed to remain wild.  Many old terraced vineyards that were abandoned after the phylloxera are now too badly damaged to be repairable for vineyard use, so have been planted with olives, and at Vale de Malhadas we also have an extensive almond plantation.

Nearly all our properties have a resident caseiro – the property manager who lives there year round – and most of them have gardens and vegetable plots tucked into the terraces adjacent to their houses or wherever there is a break in vegetation.  Kale is a staple everywhere, Tua had a fine plantation of tomatoes on an old terrace, and the winter squashes and pumpkins at Malhadas were formidable – one vine even making it out into a nearby tree.

There are citrus groves yielding lemons, oranges and grapefruit, so much so that the family often brings back cases of citrus to their homes in Porto and Gaia.  In his memoir, James Symington tells a story that during one of the periods of political unrest the police were keeping an eye on the cars as they crossed the bridge into Porto, and after three or four Symington cars full of citrus passed the checkpoint, they stopped the next one, convinced it was some kind of cover for smuggling arms – no one could possibly have or need so much fruit!

Olives starting to ripen at Tua
Bird of prey over Malvedos

The olive groves are extensive and every year the olives are harvested and the oil made at a local co-operative for the family’s use.

Needless to say, such an incredibly diverse landscape supports a diversity of wildlife.  There is a constant murmur of songbirds, wildfowl on the river, and birds of prey are common – eagles, falcons and hawks of every kind.  A walk through the old terraces at Tua on a quiet afternoon recently put up two good coveys of wild partridge.  We’ve seen all kinds of snakes and lizards, a frog the size of a grapefruit tripped up a visitor one evening in the middle of the road, and we have bats living in the winery at Malvedos – we were watching their antics in the floodlight the other night, but haven’t been able to get photos yet.

And then there’s Paul’s personal favourite, the wild boar.  Still haven’t sighted one of those for a photo either, but frankly hope not to.