The QUINTA DA PACHECA is one of the most interesting places in the Douro Valley…for many different reasons.
We can look at the Quinta and talk about the wines… we can look at the Quinta and talk about the hotel… We can look at the Quinta and talk about the restaurant… or we look at the Quinta and speak about the past, present and the possible future of the Douro Valley.
The Quinta is located on the left bank of the Douro, just opposite of Peso da Regua. This is “Ground Zero” of Port Wine, if the research of people like Altino Moreira Cardoso is correct. It was just a few hundred yards from here that the Cistercian monks might have invented the grandfather of today’s Port Wine, at the place where nowadays the Casa dos Varais is located.
We can assume that at the current ground of Quinta da Pacheca wine was made centuries before the Quinta was the first time mentioned by name… which was on a document dated April 17th in 1738. The owner back then was Mariana Pacheco Pereira. While the Pacheco family is no longer involved, since a long long time, the Quinta is still bearing the name of the family.
The Quinta was created over centuries. We know of at least 14 different purchases of vineyards between the time of 1551 and 1738. Even after that date further vineyards were added and today the size of the Quinta is around 52 hectars.
It was a big step for Dom José Freire de Serpa Pimentel to buy the Quinta in 1903. By then, the size of the property was already very similar to today’s size… but it had been very much neglected. After the phylloxera-outbreak in Portugal there hadn’t been enough money in the Pacheco family to maintain the vineyards properly. The year after the purchase, in 1904, the Quinta generated only 13 “pipas” (a little bit more than 7000 liters). The vineyards were replanted and 12 years later the production was nearly 4 times larger. A little known fun-fact: Back then the replanting was done in single-variety-blocks… which we all believe is very modern and a “progressive” thing… but about a hundred years ago this was already done at Quinta da Pacheca.
The Quinta built up a reputation in the second half of the 20th century to focus on table wines – long time before other Quintas started to see this as a commercial opportunity. Yes, the Quinta made also Port Wine (around 30% of the annual production was made into Port Wine) but it sold it to companies like Cockburn. However, in 1975 the family registered the brand QUINTA DA PACHECA for their wines and the year after, in 1976, the first wine was launched under that label. The head of the family, Eduardo Mendia Freire de Serpa Pimentel, thought that the location of the Quinta made it very difficult to produce decent Vintage Port. The Cima Corgo, around Lamego, gets more rain than the other parts of the demarcated zone – which gives a higher production, but also less concentrated wines.
The red table wines of the Quinta da Pacheca were very well received in the market and helped the Quinta to build a name and reputation long before other producers jumped on that wagon.
The next step was the opening of the hotel in 2009. At that time, three siblings of the Serpa Pimentel family were responsible for the Quinta: Maria for the wines, José for the commercial side of the business and Catarina was taking care of the new hotel.
The three had noticed that there was a huge demand for hotels in the region. The first hotel in the Douro Valley had opened only in the mid-nineties… and many people started to discover the beauty of the Valley and wanted to stay a few nights there. That’s why the three invested EUR 1.5 million and remodeled the Quinta carefully into a boutique hotel. 15 rooms was the perfect size, they thought. They wanted to be a boutique hotel because the Douro just doesn’t have the infrastructure in place to support mass-tourism. I had the pleasure to stay the first time in 2012 in the hotel – and I liked it from the moment I saw it. Great service, beautiful buildings, and interesting tastings – everything was just perfect. It was quite pricey compared with other hotels nearby – but you didn’t feel like you were in a hotel. You felt like you visit a very nice Portuguese family.
What makes this Quinta so special are a few things that are just great: There is a big room for events, with a capacity of up to 300 people. The prefect location for a wedding or other family events. A beautiful hall, full of flowers and wine barrels. But what blew my mind was the restaurant. Yes, it might be the greenest room you will ever see and it takes time to like that green… but the food is amazing. I couldn’t believe that I had to go to the Douro Valley to eat the best Octopus of my life! Even if you don’t stay at the Quinta, a visit to the restaurant is nearly mandatory when you visit the Douro Valley.
How, let’s have a look at the wines of the Quinta: As mentioned, the red wines were the passion of Eduardo Mendia Freire de Serpa Pimentel and are still the backbone of the Quinta. The interesting point is that all red wines, even the entry level red wine, are still foot-trodden! That differentiates the Quinta from many other table wine producers.
The “Pacheca Tinto/Red” is this entry level wine – nice to drink, nothing to write home about, but for the price of EUR 8.00 you get a really well made wine. Aside of spending some time in stainless steel, the wine spends 3 months in French Oak barrels.
The “Pacheca Superior Red” spends longer in French oak: 7 months. A more interesting wine, of course – and slightly more expansive, around EUR 12.00 at the moment for the 2014.
The next wine is “Pacheca Reserva Vinhas Velhas” – this wine comes from old vines and spends even longer in French Oak barrels: a whole year. This gives it of course an oaky flavor. Beautiful fruity aromas and some spices. A tannin structure that shows us that it will be possible to store this wine for 5 and more years… or even longer, to get the most out of this wine.
Same applies to the flagship wine “Pacheca Grande Reserva Touriga Nacional”. This wine is made only from the Touriga Nacional grapes – which incorporates for me the best aromas of the Douro. This grape is just amazing. The wine spends 14 months in oak and is therefore very round with well integrated tannins. At EUR 29.00 not very cheap – but great quality. Also here I would drink a few bottles now – but store the others for 5-10 years to re-visit them in the future.
A few weeks ago the Quinta da Pacheca made headlines with they launched a new wine: “PACHECA TONY CARREIRA RESERVA 2014”. In case you don’t know Tony Carreira… well, he is a Portuguese singer.
A very popular singer… he makes music for the mass market. Nothing very artistic… just go to “YOUTUBE” and look for his songs.
He worked together with Quinta da Pacheca to launch a wine that Tony likes and for which he is happy to give his name and photo…Surprisingly is the fact that while Tony Carreira’s music is incredibly sweet and full of sugar coating, his wine is drier than the other Pacheca wines.
So, if you have a Portuguese mother-in-law… bring her a bottle of Tony Carreira Reserva 2014 – she knows Tony and she will be very, very happy.
Looking at the Port Wines: As mentioned, the Cima Corgo is a relatively wet place and it’s not easy to make well-structured Vintage Ports here. But Quinta da Pacheca tried it the first time in the year 2000… and it’s very interesting to see how they were able to improve their Ports over the last 15 years. While the 2000 Port was still a very light port, the tannin structure in the 2013 is much more noticeable. It’s not an easy Port to drink at young age, I believe – the spirit will need some time to “marry” with the wine. But this should be a very good wine in 10, 15 years. Until then, I would stick to the 2003 Vintage that is still available from the Quinta.
Or even the Late Bottles Vintage 2012 – while they wine is quite nice, I believe it to be a little bit pricey at around EUR 25.00. I have problems to think about any other LBV from that year that would cost so much.
The Cima Corgo is a great place to make Tawnies – and the Quinta da Pacheca covers the full range of Tawnies with an Indication of Age and offers also several interesting Colheitas. The oldest Colheita is currently the 1934… followed by 1947, 1963, 1974, 1982 and 1990. Starting from 1997, nearly all the years until 2004 are currently covered by Colheitas. However, the high prices prevent me from adding those to my wine cellar. EUR 148.00 for the Colheita 1982 is very steep…
I suppose – and I may absolutely wrong, but that is my feeling – that these wines sell very well with the hotel guests that might not necessarily know a lot about Port Wine… and if they are willing to pay so much, then so be it…
My choice would be the 20 Year old Tawny. Very nicely done, good acidity, good sweetness… That’s a well-rounded Port. If money is not an issue, then I would go with the 40 year old Tawny… it’s very good; very intense, interesting aromas, well balanced.
2012 was the year for Quinta da Pacheca when it all changed again. Life is not straight forward – you can have a beautiful Quinta, turn it into one of the best hotels in the Douro, you have an amazing restaurant and you produce 250.000 of really nice wine each year – and you might still run into financial problems. That is what happened unfortunately to the Serpa Pimentel family. The needed to look for an investor and sold most of the Quinta to a couple of Portuguese entrepreneurs that lived in France.
Now things were changing… again… Paulo Pereira e Maria do Céu Gonçalves invested more than EUR 7 million into the property – and it’s very visible that this money was well spent. The visual appearance of the estate improved nicely. While Catarina left the management of the hotel, Maria and Jose continue to work with the new majority owners. I’m very happy that Maria decided to stay on board – she is doing an outstanding job as enologist and with her the vines and wines stay in good hands. It’s incredible to see how much passion she has for the wine and the Douro Valley in general. She really is the soul of the Quinta.
With the new investments the Quinta was able to raise its wine production from 250,000 liters to over 600,000 4 years later… which I must confess scares me a little bit. It must be very difficult to raise the volume so much while maintaining the high quality. Most of the wine goes traditionally anyhow into the French market – and the French are not known for drinking the best Port Wines – they like reasonable priced young Tawnies… and drink a lot of them. So maybe it’s a match made in heaven, that the new owners of the Quinta have a lot of experience in the French market and can now increase the revenue from the property. In 2014 the revenue of the Quinta was approx.. EUR 4.2 million, whereof EUR 3.0 million came from the sale of wine alone. This number will continue to increase over the next years.
There are plans to increase the number of rooms for the hotel, too. I read that 12 rooms shall be added, bringing the number to 27 rooms. Well, I hope that the Quinta can grow without losing the charm that it possesses. It would be pity. It’s so well located, belonged so many years to a fantastic family and has everything that a textbook example of a Quinta should have…
As mentioned before, if you are in the Douro – reserve a lunch or dinner in the restaurant. Take a tour around the property – it’s worth it. Buy a few bottles of the Vintage Port or the 20 year old Tawny. Eat the Octopus. Or the duck rice. Sleep in the hotel. Enjoy the Quinta.
When I was there in 2012, it had everything that makes the Douro so great. I hope that this identity will remain the same, even with all the planned changes to the property.
Quinta da Pacheca