The timeless Quinta do Seixo

Quinta do Seixo in the Douro valley is a place of timeless beauty. Here’s how Henry Vizetelly described it in his book “Facts about Port and Madeira,” published in 1880:

“It occupies the spurs and slopes of a mountain, one side of which bounds the Douro, and the other the Rio Torto valley. Scattered over the heights above are the white cottages of the village of Valença, the vineyards of which produce a considerable quantity of first-class wine. The buildings of the Quinta do Seixo , which is entered through an imposing gateway, surmounted by the armorial bearings of its owner, are very extensive. The casa is both commodious and well arranged, and has a certain air of pretension about it, while the lagares and the adega are on a scale proportionate to the extent of the surrounding vineyard.”

This description remains remarkably apt. The main house still offers spectacular views of the surrounding vineyards, some of which are centenarian. But Vizetelly would be amazed to see that inside the traditional building, there’s a state-of-the-art winery. 

Our guide explained what makes the Douro different: the stone terraces built to support the vines, the “field blends” made from varietals planted together in the vineyards, the poor soils that force the plants to struggle, making the berries small but full of flavor, and the methods used to produce tawnies, vintages, and late-bottled vintages. 

She also told us about Georges Sandeman, the Scottish merchant who founded Sandeman in 1790. The company quickly became the largest port-wine shipper. Its mysterious logo, created in 1928, was inspired by its two product lines: ports from Portugal and sherries from Spain. It is a silhouette of a man wearing a Spanish hat and dressed in the cloak used by students in Coimbra, Portugal’s oldest university.

At the end of the tour, we tasted four wines—first, a harmonious white Vinha Grande with fine tannins and a pleasing acidity. Then, an exuberant red Callabriga made with grapes from the Callabriga hill, which was originally planted by the Romans. Next, a delicious 2019 Vintage Port from Quinta do Seixo that tastes even better with a view of the vines that produced it. And, finally, a great Sandeman Vau port wine from the 1999 vintage.

A visit to Quinta do Seixo is a delightful introduction to the wonders of the Douro valley.

Click here for Quinta do Seixo’s website.

How do we tell the king?

We used to buy jams endorsed by the British monarchs, figuring that centuries of sampling jams at tea time gave them the practice required to select the cream of the jam crop.

We quite liked the British jams until one fateful lunch at Toca da Raposa in Ervedosa do Douro. A sampling of jams arrived without fanfare at dessert time. When we tried them, we experienced a whole new level of deliciousness!  

What makes these jams so sublime? Their fruit comes from the Douro valley, a place where the scorching summer heat and a wealth of soil micronutrients create unique conditions that intensify aromas and flavors. And each batch is handcrafted by Dona Graça, a legendary cook, and her talented daughter, Rosário. The two leave nothing to chance, shunning the use of preservatives and making adjustments small and large to ensure that the results are perfect. 

There is an orange jam chockfull of strips of orange rind that delight the palate and an orange and hot pepper jam with the ideal combination of sugar and spice. There are jars of jam brimming with perfectly ripe whole figs; a surprisingly delicious zucchini jam; amazing jams made with must from grapes used to produce port wine; jams made from a rare peach variety that grows amidst the vines, and much more.

The jams favored by his royal majesty pale by comparison with the wondrous jams from Toca da Raposa! The question is: how do we tell the king?

Toca da Raposa is located at Rua da Praça in Ervedosa do Douro, tel. 254 423 466.