Four generations later, Quinta do Canhoto maintains the family tradition, but is committed to innovation.
In the 22 hectares of property, in Albufeira, the Vilarinho family maintains a long tradition of cultivation in the Algarve, such as carob and olives. Ten of these hectares are now fully dedicated to the vineyard.
Saying that it is a “long story” that started in the 50s, Joana Fernandes tells how it all began. Since his great-great-grandfather's time, the family had owned several plots of land, “they made wine for friends in a small winery”, having then started growing and selling the grapes to Adega Cooperativa de Lagoa. The vineyard grew and so did the desire to develop the business.
As of 2009, the entire vineyard was replanted and concentrated in a single farm to increase wine production and allow the adoption of new techniques for harvesting, which began to be done with vibration machines.
“It is very difficult to find people to work in the vineyard”, says Edgar Vilarinho, responsible for the winery and vineyard. They work with about three and a half dozen people at harvest time. Keeping with tradition, they continue to operate “with those who know and work for pleasure”. The harvesters are older women, who come from São Marcos da Serra.
It was in 2012 that Joana Fernandes, an architect by profession, began to develop the project for the building where the Quinta do Canhoto winery is located. “The idea was to create a building that was as sustainable as possible”, because, although climate change is a topic that has only recently begun to be talked about, in agriculture it has already been felt for a long time.
Therefore, the family wanted to create a space with a bioclimatic architecture that “respected nature more” and with lower energy costs. On an aesthetic level, the concept was to combine the modern with the rural, in a spacious and minimalist space: “We created a contemporary space”.
With the name of Esquerdino, it was in 2017 that the first wines from this family business were launched, which quickly managed to achieve several mentions and awards. The wines are made from six different grape varieties: Antão Vaz, Arinto, Sirah, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon and Touriga Nacional.
In March of next year, a new wine will be released, but Edgar Vilarinho doesn't want to give further details yet.
The great innovation begins in the middle of 2020. “We started wine tourism in the summer of 2020 with visits to the farm, visits to the cellar, wine tasting”. Taking into account that the events wing can take up to 150 people, Joana says that they also started to receive other types of events, such as weddings. The room overlooking the countryside, right next door, the houses and the sea, in the background, is the ideal place to discover Esquerdinos wines, but also to organize parties and other events.
Despite all the innovation, there is something that Quinta do Canhoto cannot control. Due to the drought, wine production has dropped by 50% compared to last year. The rains that began to fall in abundance this autumn are a hope for the next harvest.
The harmony between such a Portuguese tradition that is wine and the city of Albufeira, brought this family a new vision for a business that had been started for so many decades.
Texts and photos by Bárbara Rodrigues, carried out within the scope of the Professional Photography 21|23 course at ETIC_Algarve, School of Technologies, Innovation and Creation of the Algarve.