A Conversation with Francisco Ferreira about Quinta do Vallado in the Douro
Francisco Ferreira is a passionate winemaker and the co-owner of Quinta do Vallado, a beautiful boutique hotel in one of the oldest and most famous wine estates in Douro Valley.
“When I was 3 years old I even went in to stomp the grapes with my leg in a cast.”
– FRANCISCO FERREIRA, CO-OWNER
Quinta do Vallado has belonged to your family since it was established in 1716. Did you come here during your childhood? If so, can you tell us a bit about your memories?
I came here lots of times and I have many memories, especially of the harvests, which back then were done by groups of people who came from other villages and it was always such a joy.
I loved riding on the tractors and lorries with the workers, I also loved the breakfasts at the vines and eating sardines. I remember a lot of typical characters at Quinta do Vallado, from the caretakers, the wine cellar worker, the man who arranged the baskets for the harvest, the man who “recorded” the number of hours each person worked.
We had many animals such as pigs, turkeys, chickens, pheasants… there were rods in the chimney to smoke “chouriços”. The smells are so memorable, from the smell of smoke in the kitchen to the intense smell of wet earth when it rained in the summer. And obviously, I remember the winepress… when I was 3 years old I even went in to stomp the grapes with my leg in a cast.
What are your suggestions for guests that are visiting Douro for the first time?
My first suggestion is for visitors not to rush to see everything too quickly. The Douro is indisputably one of the most beautiful and fantastic regions in the world with incredible landscapes, where every nook deserves to be seen. The roads are very steep, so even when the distances seem short, it takes time to get from one Estate to the other. Visit each Estate slowly so that you can “experience” what a “Quinta” in the Douro is – the vines, the Port wine and DOCs (Protected Designation of Origin), the people, the tradition… that’s what makes the Douro special.
I think it’s a must to take a boat ride on the Douro river, preferably upstream from Pinhão, and to visit one of the renowned lookout points such as São Leonardo da Galafura or São Salvador do Mundo – the landscape is overwhelming. And if you can, to round it off, visit one of the Caves (Cellars) in Villa Nova de Gaia in Porto.
Quinta do Vallado started hosting guests in 2005 and since then you have opened the new wing as well as another superb hotel, Casa do Rio. What’s next?
The hotels are very important for our project, not only from a financial point of view, but also because they are the best way to promote our “Vallado” brand… to tell our family’s history, the tradition, to show the vines, the cellar, to allow people to taste the wines accompanied by typical meals from the region, the vegetables from our gardens, the fruits from our orchards, to show off all of the people behind the scenes making this happen… it is undoubtedly an experience that guests won´t forget.
At this stage, we aim to be even better at what we already do pretty well. Regarding the future, we shall see!
“We aim to be even better at what we already do pretty well.”
– FRANCISCO FERREIRA, CO-OWNER
What’s your favourite part of your job?
Fortunately I have several – from monitoring the works on the vines to monitoring the planting of new vines to networking with other wine makers, the wine tastings – ours and others – the opportunity to host so many people, who are so diverse and interesting.
If I had to pick one, I would say the harvest, which is the time when everything unfolds, when the passion for what we do provides us with the energy to work 16 hour days for 40 consecutive days. During that phase, I love the wine must tasting sessions, which usually happen twice a day, to check on the progression from grape to the final fermentation.
Every year is different, and it’s important to monitor this phase carefully so that we can get the best out of each vine… there isn’t one single formula to making great wines. Another part of the job which I find extremely fulfilling is the tasting of the different batches which will become the final batch. Some days we taste up to 300 different samples…It’s amazing but exhausting!
“The harvest is the time when everything unfolds, when the passion for what we do provides us with the energy to work 16 hour days for 40 consecutive days.”
– FRANCISCO FERREIRA, CO-OWNER
What sets your guests’ experience apart from other hotels in the Douro?
I think the fact that we are wine makers with such an extensive tradition: in 2018 it will mark 200 years since this estate is in our family. This allows people who come here to understand a little about how the “Quintas” (estates) work, which is the essence of the Douro. Also the service, the intimacy and the comfort, we like to make people feel more at home.
What’s your favourite object in the hotel and where did you find it?
My favourite object are some very old vines, from a branch which was located exactly where the hotel is now, and that were transformed into fantastic “sculptures” by our cousin Tomaz Viana.
What’s your favourite hotel?
I’ve stayed at many fantastic hotels so it’s hard to choose one, but not far from here actually there is a hotel which I find very endearing – Vidago Palace.
Where do you tend to go on holiday?
Every year I usually spend 15 days in the Algarve, where I either stay with my in-laws or rent a house. I love the beach. I also take time for another family holiday which is usually either skiing or visiting an European city.
Thank you very much for this interview Francisco.
Thank you too!
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© Photos by JO&SO and courtesy of Quinta do Vallado.
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