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Text and photos by Rita Branco
It was on one of those sunny days at the beginning of spring that I went to visit Quinta da Boeira, a beautiful mansion and gardens in Vila Nova de Gaia, there on the other side of the River Douro.
Quinta da Boeira had recently won the important Best Of Wine Tourism award for the Art and Culture category.
This award is given by the Great Wine Capitals Global Network, an international cooperative network comprising the following cities/regions: Adelaide, Bilbao/Rioja, Bordeaux, Cape Town/Cape Winelands, Mainz/Rheinhessen, Mendoza, Porto, Napa Valley/San Francisco and Valparaiso/Casablanca Valley.
Porto, in this case, represents the Douro, port and vinho verde regions.
So I went to find out more about Quinta da Boeira and its activities which extend beyond the world of wine and into art, culture and the sciences.
Skirted by a huge green area of ancient trees and plants of various species, the mansion features Belle Époque architecture and stands out for its beauty and its azulejos (ceramic tiles), which I so enjoy.
The house is home to the restaurant which is open to the public every day and was where I had lunch in one of its ample rooms. Delicious traditional Portuguese food and an excellent service.
The interior of the house is beautiful and enough in itself to make a visit worthwhile. But there’s more to see!
On the floor above the restaurant, there is the Sala dos Arcos (Arch Room), an auditorium for all types of cultural presentations and events and used as a gallery for temporary exhibitions.
I had the opportunity to admire the paintings and sculptures on display by art students from a college in the Porto region.
Making the most of the lovely day, I took a walk around the park and learnt about its history, which dates back to 1850.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a Portuguese man, who had emigrated to Brazil, returned and built the lovely house. Years later, it was bought by a British family which owned a port wine company, where they lived until the 1990s.
In 1998, a group of 10 friends from the Porto region decided to buy it, maintaining the house, large garden and all of its beauty. They decided at the time to open it as a venue for cultural and wine-related events.
And talking about wine, in May 2014, BOEIRA Portugal in a Bottle was opened in the garden. This space, whose very special architecture resembles a giant bottle measuring 32 metres long by 10 metres across, consists of a large tasting room with wines from every region of the country, but it is also used to sample Portuguese gastronomic delicacies and for video projections.
The building is extremely well designed and establishes a relationship with Douro, with the riverside in Porto and Gaia visible and perfect surroundings for the tasting of wine.
Getting to know this “huge bottle” was a pleasant surprise.
There is also a marquee/auditorium in the garden that is used to hold various concerts of all types but with special emphasis on Portuguese music.
My visit came to an end in the large warehouse, which was totally refurbished and also turned into a wine-tasting and exhibition venue.
This was the “grand finale” for me, as I had the opportunity to see an amazing exhibition!
This consisted of 19 Portuguese and 5 other European ships from the 16th to 19th centuries. They were authentic replicas of caravels made by Albino Costa, a former fisherman and sailor who now devotes himself to this special art of reproducing, down to the tiniest detail, these ships from yesteryear that were so important during the age of discovery, a time of such great importance in Portuguese history.
Almost all of these ships carried Portuguese wines in their holds and in the captain’s quarters, accomplices during the successes of their maritime adventures.
It was a fantastic tribute to the men, the wine and to art. Quinta da Boeira deserves a visit for all of this. It is a special place and deserves its award, and is a source of pride for the region of Porto.
BOEIRA Portugal in a bottle:
Rua Teixeira Lopes, 114
4400-320 Vila Nova de Gaia
Tel: +351 223 751 338