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To visit Quinta Vale D. Maria is to experience the Douro at its fullest and enjoy its essence through a range of exclusive wines whose identity reflects the terroir that gave rise to them.

The old vines at Quinta Vale D. Maria bear witness to the passing of time and share memories with each new harvest. The vineyard, over 60 years old and with 41 grape varieties, which is the origin of the Quinta Vale D. Maria Vinhas Velhas Douro wine, is in the heart of the Quinta, stretching from the lowest to the highest point of the property.

What are Old Vines?

There is no agreement on the age at which a vineyard can begin to be called “old”, since this designation can depend on various factors, from the grape variety to the region and climate to which the vine is subjected. However, all vines go through the same life cycle, and this is what will dictate when a vine becomes old.

Young Vine Phase

After planting, a vine needs around 3 years to establish its roots and develop its aerial structure. Between the ages of 3 and 6, this growth tends to stabilize, although the plant can maintain its vegetative vigor during this period. From then until the end of its second decade, the vine will be at its peak of production, depending, however, on other external factors such as soil fertility, climate, grape variety, and the viticulture philosophy applied to it, particularly during winter pruning.

Old Vine Phase

After the age of 30/40 years, the vine will have learnt the wisdom of the age and will have a more defined root system that allows it to search for nutrients and water in depth. It will also be more prone to self-regulation as it will be less subject to external factors. As a result, the vine will be more consistent in terms of quality, due to the variations in climate it has experienced during its long life. However, as time goes by, the vine also becomes more sensitive and fragile, so the winegrower needs to pay more attention to wood diseases and pests. At this stage, the vine will begin to decline in production, producing fewer and smaller berries, which will cause the ratio of skins to pulp to decrease. By producing fewer grapes, all the energy created by the plant will be applied to that smaller quantity of grapes, which will be reflected in better and more balanced ripening.

Is there any legislation regulating the designation Old Vines?

For a long time, there was no legislated definition of Old Vines in the world, with the exception of Australia. It was therefore considered that, depending on the region, it applied to white grape varieties from the age of 25 and to red grape varieties from the age of 40. In Portugal, there are old vines spread across various regions, from the Douro to the Dão and Alentejo. These old vines behave differently in each region and can be considered old due to different factors in each region. In the case of the Douro, in 2020, the IVDP declared that the designation applies to vineyards that have:

  • more than 40 years since they were planted.
  • at least 5,000 vines per hectare.
  • at least 4 grape varieties planted on the same plot.

Is a wine from old vines synonymous with quality?

In the case of very old vines, complexity is guaranteed because they exhibit much greater genetic diversity than younger vines, which are often planted with just one clone of the same grape variety. In the past, it was common to plant several grape varieties in the same place to study which ones would adapt best to the terroir, making a natural selection in the vineyard and allowing for a multiplicity of varieties and clones, giving rise to wines that are more stimulating and unpredictable on the palate. A real discovery in every bottle.

What characteristics do old vines imprint on wines to make them so special?

Because of the facts described above, wines from old vines will have higher levels of sugar, acidity, and antioxidants. They will also be more intense in flavor and therefore more concentrated and elegant. The dedication and attention given by the winegrowers and winemakers to the old vines throughout the production process will produce unique wines that carry the history of the vineyard in every bottle.

This diversity is what makes Quinta Vale D. Maria Vinhas Velhas Douro a deep, intense, and unmistakable wine, with aromas of cherry, plum and blackberry, typical of this field blend. Concentrated, with a structure and vigor that intensify its succulent texture, it is harmonious and extremely elegant.

Sharing a wine from old vines with friends or family is an excellent way of travelling through history through the senses.