Morgado do Quintão – From Underdog to Celebration: The Renaissance of Algarve’s Authentic Vine Varieties

Wine Producers

Morgado do Quintão – From Underdog to Celebration: The Renaissance of Algarve’s Authentic Vine Varieties

Vines are making a comeback in the Algarve. Forced out by the tourist boom 50 years ago, more and more land is being replanted. One of the pioneers is Morgado do Quintão, which is going for quality wine with the help of Joana Maçanita.

Unleashing the Future: Rediscovering Forgotten Grape Varieties at Morgado do Quintão

“The future lies in our past. Old grape varieties that nobody cared about.” Felipe Caldas de Vasconcellos speaks quickly and energetically in perfect English. It’s no wonder. Cottage rentals and wine tourism are essential parts of today’s Morgado do Quintão, which he runs with his sister, Teresa.

An overview of the wine estate Morgado do Quintão, with houses, garden, farmland and vineyards.
The Morgado do Quintão estate. (Photo: Morgado do Quintão)

Preserving Heritage and Cultivating the Future: A Journey of Care and Sustainability

The farm has been in the family since 1810 but met the same fate as many other agricultural properties when tourists acquired a taste for the Algarve towards the end of the 20th century. Hotels and golf courses were built at breakneck speed, and an established wine culture was razed to the ground.

“In the 1970s, we sold off land to build hotels. That was the way things were back then. The wines were forgotten,” says Felipe, who had the opportunity to breathe new life into the farm at the turn of the millennium.

That’s when the long-term work of managing the estate’s assets began again. It’s not just wine that grows here; there are 2000-year-old olive trees, and almonds are grown. Three cottages have been built to accommodate tourists who want to experience local life. Morgado do Quintão is firmly committed to the Algarve’s cultural heritage. They want to show that the region is not a built-up tourist paradise, but a living farming community.”

Felipe is careful about how he is titled, however. Several times, he repeats: “I’m not an owner; I’m a caretaker. The land is not mine; I look after it until the next generation takes over.”

One of the vineyards at Morgado do Quintão with the mountains in the background.
One of the vineyards at Morgado do Quintão. (Photo: Morgado do Quintão)

Uncovering a Hidden Gem: Exploring the Wine Revolution in the Algarve Wine Region

Morgado do Quintão is located in the southwestern Algarve, just below 10 kilometres (6 miles) from the Atlantic. It’s warm but not piping hot. Sea breezes bring coolness and humidity. On the other hand, Sunshine hours are among the highest in Portugal – thus ideal for vinegrowing.

Historically, the Algarve was an important wine region, although the grapes were delivered to the co-operatives for mediocre bulk wine. Even Felipe’s family sold their grapes until the decision in 2016 to launch their brand.

“We have 60 hectares (148 acres) of vineyards and decided to bottle our own wine. It was a big decision, but it was possible thanks to the collaboration with Joana Maçanita.”

Joana Maçanita consultant winemaker at Morgado do Quintão.
Joana Maçanita consultant winemaker at Morgado do Quintão. (Photo: António Maçanita)

Joana Maçanita: Elevating Algarve Wines with Passion and Expertise

Joana Maçanita is one of Portugal’s top winemakers and consultants. She collaborates with her brother Antonio, has her own “garage winery” in the Douro and consults with several wine producers.

She started working with the Algarve in 2012 when she took over as project manager for five wine producers: Cabrita Wines, Quinta João Clara, Edd’s, Quinta do Barradas and Quinta da Malaca. In 2016, Morgado do Quintão joined the group. Joana sees excellent potential in the wine region.

“The climate is not as extreme as you might think, thanks to the proximity to the sea. And we have good soil that retains water. At night, the temperature drops so that the grapes can rest – despite the intense sun, it’s fresher here than in the Douro”, she says, talking about the hard work of improving the reputation of Algarve wines.

Harvesting white grapes at the wine estate Morgado do Quintão in Algarve.
Harvesting white grapes at Morgado do Quintão. (Photo: Morgado do Quintão)

From Awards to Respect: Algarve’s Wines Shine and Negra Mole Takes Centre Stage

“The first was, of course, to improve the quality of the wines in general. Get a solid high level. We sent bottles to international competitions to show what the Algarve can do and what we stand for.”

The work paid off. The wines were recognised and won awards, and the Algarve’s signature grape, Negra Mole, is starting to get the respect it deserves. “It’s an exciting grape that can be harvested at different stages depending on what you want to do. At Morgado do Quintão, we go through the fields three times, making everything from sparkling and rosé to red wine.”

Working with the Algarve and Douro in parallel works well. The harvest in the Algarve is usually in August – in the Douro, they get going in September. “So I can be one hundred per cent present in both places,” says Joana.

One of the old vineyards at Morgado do Quintão, with an older man and a young boy driving an old tractor.
Vineyard work in one of the old vineyards at Morgado do Quintão. (Photo: Morgado do Quintão)

The Rise of Negra Mole: Embracing Local Grapes and Savoring the Past

Morgado do Quintão grows mainly three grapes, all local. Negra Mole, Castelão and the white Síria (locally called Crato Branco). Even Felipe praises the former black sheep, Negra Mole.

“It was not respected and was seen as a crap grape; bright colour and low alcohol – a volume grape. But it’s that fresher style that is appreciated today. Generally speaking, our profile is local grape varieties, old vines – at least 50 years old, organic farming and low intervention in the winery.”

“That’s where the future lies. It’s getting hotter and drier, but our vines are used to the climate and with age, they have deep roots that reach down to water and nutrients. What we want to deliver is a perception of the past.”

10 different bottles of wine made at Morgado do Quintão.
The different wines made at Morgado do Quintão. (Photo: Morgado do Quintão)

Algarve’s Wine: A Promising Future Beyond its Borders

Most of the Algarve’s wine is devoured by tourists on the spot, so exports are, so far, reasonably meagre. If replanting continues at the same rate, it’s only a matter of time before we see more wines from the Algarve outside the Algarve. I am very fond of the combination of ripe fruit and the freshness that native grapes around the Atlantic can provide. One plus one suddenly becomes three.