Ann: ‘Quinta de Sant’Ana had been producing wine since it was founded in 1630 but it had seen better days when my parents Gustav and Paula von Fürstenberg purchased the property in 1969. It was the most idyllic place for us all to grow up in; old vineyards interspersed with fruit trees, potatoes and garlic, all divided into a chaotic yet romantic patchwork of different cultures. The beautiful winery, which had produced over 80,000 litres of wine in its heyday, lay practically dormant. My parents embraced the Portuguese style of life in the countryside and set about improving things with quality wine production in mind; land was cleared, drains were laid, and the ground prepared for plantation. But fate was against them – and amidst the political uncertainty of the 1974 “Carnation Revolution”, we were forced back to Germany and for almost 20 years, the estate was left semi-abandoned. The Quinta’s caretaker continued living here with his family, although winemaking continued the traditional way, most vineyards and the winery became neglected. Although we came back often to spend our summers at the farm, the wine project had to wait… Finally, in 1992, I brought James to visit the Quinta. We fell in love with rejuvenating the project my parents had started before the revolution. Participating in the wine harvest that year gave us great insight into the traditional methods of winemaking, using the ancient equipment where the results were often dubious!’
James: ‘In 1999 we decided to make a foray into the viticultural world planting 2.4 hectares of new vines with varieties Aragonês, Castelão and Fernão Pires. Our home-made wine became somewhat more drinkable, but most of the grapes were sold. It was only in 2004 that the project was formally launched when friend and viticulturist David Booth introduced us to the 24 year old António Maçanita, who at that stage was fresh out of university. António has been our winemaker ever since.
From the outset, we decided with António that rather than produce quantity, we would concentrate on making wine of the best possible quality, and our market was to be niche; that of wine lovers who appreciate complexity and variety. We therefore decided to plant a large spectrum of different grape varieties, both Portuguese and international. From experiences in other areas of Portugal, António recognised early on that we had a unique cool climate in Quinta de Sant’Ana, suitable for exciting varieties such as Pinot Noir, Alvarinho and Riesling.
After 2005 we gradually increased our vineyards, reaching an area of 10,5 hectares in 2009, when we had a selection of 5 white and 4 red varieties. The project stabilised, we took breath and waited to see in which direction the vines and wines took us. With our love of nature and the rich diversity of species that this land hosts, it wasn’t long before my mind was set on converting to organic farming. We were determined to enhance the ecosystems in a herbicide free environment, liberating the vines from their reliance on conventional chemicals. Over the years we have seen that the vines have become more resistant to disease, learning to cope on their own. The variety of flora and fauna have increased magnificently, much to the delight of our bees! One almost forgets to mention the resulting wines! We are convinced that they have reached a new level of complexity and varietal expression that is most exciting.
In 2013 we planted two new varieties, both Portuguese and local to us; Arinto and Ramisco. This represents our long-term goal of adopting predominantly local Portuguese varieties. Our planting continues with the ambitious conversion of eucalyptus forest that we have ripped up on a rugged north facing slope. Here we plan to plant vines of cool climate loving varieties, indigenous trees where the land is too steep and rocky, and many cover crops to fix the soil and improve soil health.
With António’s appetite to experiment, and push limits, and with us willing to take risks and enjoying the adventure of new experiences, the future of Quinta de Sant’Ana promises to continue to be exciting and full of surprises.’