Sad to learn that Quinta do Vale D Maria, one of the Douro’s top quintas, has been sold by Cristiano van Zeller to the Guedes family of Aveleda Vinhos, one of the leading producers in Vinho Verde. Fortunately, Cristiano already has a good relationship with the Guedes (they have family ties) and he and his daughter Francisca will stay on: there’s every reason to believe that the Quinta will carry on making excellent wines. But the sale was forced by financial reasons.
This is the second recent Douro acquisition by Aveleda, who bought Seis Quintas in the Douro Superior last year. With the 45 hectares of vines from Vale D Maria and the 42 hectares of Seis Quintas, Avelada will now have a significant presence in the Douro. They already have a 21 hectare estate in Bairrada (Quinta d’Agueira), in addition to their 300 hectares in Vinho Verde, where their key brand is the ubiquitous Casal Garcia. They plan to expand further to 650 hectares in Vinho Verde by 2020, which is more than double their existing holdings.
From 1973 to 1996 Vale D Maria was leased to port producer Graham’s. Cristiano acquired the estate from his wife’s family in 1996 after the sale of his family property Quinta do Noval to AXA. The debut vintage, 1996, was released in very small quantities (some made it to Oddbins in the UK, which is where I first came across it), and gradually the vineyards were restored and expanded, and production increased. Currently Cristiano makes a wide range of wines: Rufo, VVV Valleys, Quinta Vale D. Maria, Vinha da Francisca, Vinha do Rio, Vinha do Moinho and CV, as well as a range of Ports.