With an Italian father and a fortune built in children’s textiles in France, Rogier Zannier could have decided to locate the jewel in the crown of Domaines Roger Zannier in any of Europe’s wine producing countries. He chose the Douro, Portugal’s best quality wine region, buying Quinta do Pessegueiro in 1991. This was a far-sighted investment as back then the Douro was still only known for its port wine production and had not yet earned a place at the world’s top wine table.
Today, Quinta do Pessegueiro is producing a range of outstanding wines, guided by the expertise of its young oenologist, João Nicolau de Almeida, a member of a distinguished family of Douro wine makers – João’s grandfather was Fernando Nicolau de Almeida, the creator of Barca Velha, the iconic table wine instrumental in positioning Douro wines on the international map.
Quinta do Pessegueiro is breathtakingly remote. You drive deep into the hills to the south of the River Douro, through the easternmost of the three Douro sub-regions, Douro Superior. Just before the sleepy village of Ervedosa do Douro, there is a sharp turning to the left, easy to miss. The Quinta is at the end of a winding one-track road. An incredible landscape of terraced vineyards extends in every direction, sprinkled with pines and small farms. There is not a human soul in sight and the silence is complete.
On the day I visited Pessegueiro, in early October, it had hardly rained since the spring and the parched landscape was a palette of browns and ochres, the temperature well above thirty degrees. The winery itself is an imposing concrete and glass structure, surrounded by olive trees. The smiling Célia was expecting me. She explained that before working at Pessegueiro she had taught French in a local school and suggested that we speak in French.
The winery’s specific architectural form is dictated by the wine-making process that it houses. The building’s five levels enable a gravitational method of wine-making that entirely avoids the use of pumps and respects the treatment of the grapes. The energy consumed by the winery is produced from renewable sources.
These sustainable development practices are combined with sophisticated modern technology. Walking through the different production areas you are struck by the exciting use of different materials: concrete, aluminium, red leather, beige Hungarian or French oak casks and a wall that looks like gold leaf. The drama and tension implicit in the creation of great wines is very much in evidence and I almost expected Roger Moore to emerge from an elevator attired in a dinner jacket.
I am happy to say that the wine tasting fully lived up to the promise of the equipment! I particularly recommend the Quinta do Pessegueiro 2013 red, woody and intense, which will make splendid drinking in two or three years’ time. I also enjoyed the 2014 vintage port with its lovely rich promising finish and the mineral Aluzé white 2016.
Quinta do Pessegueiro equally produce fine olive oils.