Dona Antonia Ferreira's Legacy
Dona Antonia Adelaide Ferreira
She was considered a visionary for planting new vineyards in areas that had been unproductive and outside the Douro region at the time. She went down in History as one of the greatest Portuguese business women.
Born in 1811, she was the daughter of a wealthy wine producer and merchant, Jose Bernardo Ferreira and his wife Margarida Rosa Gil. She married her cousin Bernardo Antonio Ferreira in 1834. Dona Antonia had two children, a girl, Maria de Assuncao and a boy, Antonio Bernardo Ferreira. Her husband died in Paris in 1844 when she was only thirty three years old. She spent a few years in London to avoid the pressure of an arranged marriage between her daughter, then only 11years old to the son of an prosperous and influential man, who was the Prime minister to the King. She eventually returned to Portugal. Jose da Silva Torres, Administrator of the Ferreira Port House, whom she married, supported her as she fought against the lack of support from the government, who were unconcerned with the Douro regions problems from the diseases on the vines. She eventually received information from England about the most effective way to fight the plague.
She Was The Largest Exporter Of Port Wine
For many years, Dona Antonia was the largest exporter of port wine. Her reputation was due as much to her ability as a business woman and her strong character. During the bad harvests as a result of the vineyard pests, and falling prices of the wine, she was always ready to help those who needed assistance. Her employees and many of the Douro farmers knew that they could rely on her for help. She also organized the construction of the hospital and a school. In a male dominated world of proprietors and traders, she expanded and improved the Estate.
The Best Port Wine and History of Wine Portugal
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Grapes From the Douro Valley
The upper Douro valley in north eastern Portugal is farmed with grapes from which port wine is made. The vineyards where they grow the grapes are some of the most difficult to farm in the whole of Portugal. The vineyards rise in carved out tiers above the stone village. An old saying from the farmers is, ‘the steeper the hillside, the poorer the soil, the smaller the harvest, the better the wine.
- The full-bodied Port strengthens and has an intense aroma and flavor.
- Port is a sophisticated blend of different grapes.
- Some port is blended from red wines that were produced from different harvests.
- These wines are matured for up to 25 years.
- At harvest time ten liters of double-strength brandy gets added to every fifty liters of wine. This is done to sweeten the port.
- The brandy arrests the fermentation and prevents the sugar of the sweet Douro grapes to change into alcohol, which would produce dry, claret like wine.
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They Replanted a Large Section of Vineyards
For almost 200 years Quinta do Vallado’s produced port wines that were sold by the Ferreira Port House. Dona Antonia’s great-grandson Jorge Viterbo Ferreira and his son Jorge Cabral Ferreira have developed and greatly improved the Quinta’s vineyards and winery. The new vineyards were restructured by planting the best varieties in separate plots. The ripening and picking times resulted in great improvements to the harvesting of the grapes in a much more regular and economically way. ‘Ferreira House’ was sold in 1987.
One of the oldest and most famous Quintas in the Douro Valley, is the Quinta de Vallado which was established in 1716. The descendants of Dona Antonia Ferreira still own and farm this property. It lies on both banks of the Corgo River, which branches off the Douro River near its mouth.
The Legacy of Dona Antonia Ferreira
In 1993, under the direction of Guilherme Ribeiro and his wife Maria Ferreira, the company decided to start producing, bottling and marketing their own-label wines. There by breaking away from the centuries old tradition of selling the vineyard’s production to the Ferreira Port Wine House. The new winery and cellar were completed in 2009. It combines the technology of a high quality project, making it a popular tourist destination of the Douro valley. Dona Antonia died in 1896, she left behind a large fortune and nearly thirty vineyards. The Quinta do Vallado is now managed by three cousins, who are direct descendants of Dona Antonia.
© 2017 Anita Hasch