Wines of Portugal: Quinta da Gaivosa, a family estate in the Douro Valley


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Managed by a father and son, with references dating back to the 12th century, this is an example of how to make the most of the region’s identity and diversity.

Even for the less attentive, it won’t be difficult to taste the wines of Quinta da Gaivosa today and understand that they are a kind of balm for the region. Of course, there are others that are just as complex, intense, fresh and elegant, but the difference is that this is one of the pioneers of DOC bottling in the Douro, and its wines have always been that way.

While the most extracted, opulent and punchy wines were causing a sensation and creating a “Douro style” that made the region famous the world over, Gaivosa followed its own path. A path that has continued alongside the famous five grape varieties (Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cão, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca) and, above all, faithful to Baixo Corgo, a neglected sub-region considered incapable of producing great wines.

In addition to preserving the wide variety of native grape varieties and the traditional style of vineyards and viticulture, Gaivosa wines are today the best example of the balance and freshness that everyone is looking for. And, more importantly, an appreciation of the Douro’s winegrowing history and heritage – which is to say its identity – and proof of the region’s diversity, that the Douro is not all the same.

The region’s history is long and rich, and Quinta da Gaivosa has reserved a chapter in the history of Douro wines in the space of three decades – because it was one of the pioneers of DOC wine production, and because it values the region’s past and identity. Today, it is consensual.

The main character is Domingos Alves de Sousa, who represents the fifth generation of a family that has always devoted itself to viticulture. References to Gaivosa appear as early as D. Afonso Henriques, in the letter of donation from Couto da Ermida (1139), as well as in the Memórias Paroquiais of 1758, amidst the pombaline demarcations, where the “sítio da Gaivosa, well known for its exquisite wines” is mentioned.

Domingos Alves de Sousa and his son Tiago, oenologist both will be present at the Wines of Portugal 2023 - Photo Fernando Veludo
Domingos Alves de Sousa and his son Tiago, oenologist both will be present at the Wines of Portugal 2023 – Photo Fernando Veludo

A long history of production, still destined for the greatest Port wine houses, but jeopardized by changes in legislation, the creation of the Douro DOC and the drastic reduction of the “Benefício” (authorized quota for Port wine production). All this in the context of the crisis of the 1980s.

A change of course was needed, and this is where the commitment, vision and sagacity of Domingos Alves de Sousa came into play. A civil engineer, he quickly set about familiarizing himself with viticultural knowledge. He collected training courses, visited the best regions, notably Bordeaux, and got to know the new generation of winemakers from the University of Trás-os-Montes and the Alto Douro.

With the knowledge he had acquired, but without forgetting the history and tradition of the family and the region, he moved on to production and bottling at a time when, alongside the already famous Barca Velha and Quinta do Côtto, the first DOC wines from the Douro were being produced.

Quinta da Gaivosa, in Santa Marta de Penaguião, in the Douro balanced, fresh wines - Photo Anna Costa
Quinta da Gaivosa, in Santa Marta de Penaguião, in the Douro balanced, fresh wines – Photo Anna Costa

New old vines

History will also remember the famous journeys of Domingos Alves de Sousa, with a suitcase full of bottles, on a promotional tour that can only be compared to that of Luís Pato, “Mr. Baga”, from Bairrada. Two engineers!

An insight and sagacity that have also marked the succession and evolution of the company. Alongside his father, Tiago Alves de Sousa is today the face of the company, as well as one of the country’s most renowned winemakers. He worked alongside Anselmo Mendes from an early stage, before taking over the reins of production in 2012. He is behind the 2011 blend, an extraordinary wine, very rich, full of vigor and showing that it is still far from full. An omen that threatens eternity.

With 25 hectares of vineyards, over 50 red varieties and 20 white varieties, Gaivosa’s terroir has been enhanced not only by the effort to preserve native varieties, but also by the viticultural work that seeks to reproduce them in a “new old vines” philosophy supported by the traditional style of vineyard, with vines planted along contour lines and maintaining schist walls.

Gaivosa wines are also the expression of a softer Douro, marked by the proximity of Marão, altitude and schist soils. White and red wines are distinguished by their structure, freshness and great elegance, as are excellent whites such as Grande Reserva 2020.

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