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Text and Photos by Vera Dantas
Coming from Vila Real and descending the terraced mountain by the beautiful national road that configures amazing viewpoints at each curve of the journey, a black silhouette appears on my left. There is something subtle in the way that Quinta da Gaivosa’s new winery marks the landscape of the Alto Douro wine region.
Startling, it tells a story made of dreams and achievements, fusing into the landscape that embraces it, that of the first demarcated wine region of the world, classified as World Heritage by UNESCO.
These are more than enough reasons for Quinta da Gaivosa to be the winner of the Great Wine Capitals 2017 Best of Wine Tourism regional award in the Architecture and Landscape category.
At my arrival, I was welcomed by the patriarch of Quinta da Gaivosa, Domingos Alves de Sousa, flanked by his sons Tiago, a talented winemaker, and Patrícia, a skilled manager. Together they continue a work that for five generations has been taking the Alto Douro region to the world, at the same time awarding the Alves de Sousa company with the most distinguished prizes and honors in the Port and Douro wines categories. Domingos Alves de Sousa was the visionary who, two decades ago, made other producers believe that Douro had the potential to produce great quality wines besides Port wines, and lead to way to today's undoubted high quality Douro wines.
It was Domingos Alves de Sousa himself that took me on a guided tour of the vineyards surrounding the winery. We climbed in a jeep and contemplated the 40 hectares of contiguous vineyards from the Quinta da Gaivosa to the Vale da Raposa, in this subregion of Baixo Corgo (Lower Corgo).
It is a gigantic natural amphitheater, granting it with different solar expositions and a huge slope of vineyard terraces supported by the traditional shale walls. The Alves de Sousa winery produces about 35 different wines, including 10 Port wines and 25 Douro wines in the white, red and rosé varieties.
It is next to the old vineyards of the exceptional Abandonado wine that one can best see the full immersion in the landscape achieved by the architectural work of the Quinta da Gaivosa’s new winery, designed by Belém Lima. The old road seems to have been drawn around the winery. The structure's volumetry stands in harmony, with an elegant black brick coating.
The building honors the surrounding landscape opening up over it with large windows on its two high floors. Domingos Alves de Sousa sought, in dialogue with Belém Lima and his sons, that even from the exterior one could see into the winery.
Each division forms a picture of the wine landscape: the huge windows, like living frames, are all north facing, capturing all the light without letting in the overwhelming heat of the Douro Valley summer days.
The outer black silhouette gives way to a deep ethereal white on the inside, highlighted by the black schist floor. The first landscape picture you see when entering the winery is the one in the wine shop and visitor's reception. The family's members wanted the building to be an extension of themselves and they are happy with the result.
This is a wine cellar intentionally designed to be extremely functional, with communicating spaces. The panoramic wine laboratory and tasting room, Tiago Alves de Sousa's command post, also has a strategic role, allowing to keep up with all the production phases, from the grapes reception to the production and aging areas, on the lower floor. Architectural functionality also contemplates the tours feature of the winery. In my experience, you can visit and learn about all stages of production in a simple and memorable way.
Two more areas deserve special attention: the tempting wine tasting room, on the first floor, where one can savour excellent wines in a calm and bright environment; and the terrace, with a 360º landscape view.
Complete, full of life and transpicuous, the winery of Quinta da Gaivosa is a homage of Domingos Alves de Sousa to a family's heritage that merges with the winemaking art, and a legacy that will endure in time.