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A vine idea

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By Mike Gaunt


In Portugal, a “Quinta” is a little farm; commonly, but not always, a wine-producing farm.

They are often found in the countryside or on the edge of towns and villages.

The name comes from the fact that a “quinta-parte”, or a fifth part, of the farm’s income was paid in tax in times gone by.

We live in a little quinta, on the edge of a small village.

We don’t have many vines, but we are thinking of changing that following a recent visit to a working quinta.

We had decided to go and visit our friends who live in Sintra, a beautiful place not far from Lisbon.

It is chic and trendy with many diverting attractions, such as the Pena and National Palaces and the Moorish castle on the hilltop.

If you have never been, go!

It is the place where Portugal’s royal family would go in the summertime, as it has a sort of micro-climate which makes it cool, green and even misty on the hottest of days.

We had driven down the coast, taking in the small resort towns along the way, which take absurd advantage of their beachside location.

A nifty blue trim is found on almost everything, from white houses to ashtrays, as clearly tourists feel more inclined to be parted from their euros when faced with a blue-and-white theme.

Surfboards are popular, as are bicycle trails and cafés selling the ubiquitous pasteis da nata, Portugal’s famous little custard tarts.

We stopped for a coffee in a little café, which was built out over the beach in the resort of Praia da Vieira, where they had the deepest and most luxuriously creamy tarts we have ever eaten.

But I digress from my theme.

We were visiting friends and, whilst relaxing one evening, there was a suggestion that we visit this quinta nearby and we embraced the idea with almost unseemly haste, as it was a visit with an added bonus: you didn’t just get to look around a vineyard, but also were offered the chance to taste the product. Bargain!

I have been on the trips around cognac houses in Charente in the past and it was a little like those, but more laid back somehow.

It was just the four of us and the sommelier, talking about this grape and that grape and the various technical aspects of the harvest.

There is something pleasing to the eye in a patch of land covered with organised rows of well-tended vines, each with a rose bush at the end.

There was a hall with massive barrels and a lovely cool cellar, where many more were stored.

It was most convivial and we enjoyed it very much.

As a consequence, “she who must be obeyed” has been talking enthusiastically ever since about developing our meagre vines along similar lines.

I find the idea appealing, I admit.

After the Algarve, the Sintra area is the most popular destination among “Brits abroad”.

It is easy to see why it has become a must-see place and why many, including our friends, have settled there.

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