Had a very rare and fortunate opportunity to visit the legendary Graham’s quinta near Tua for a day or two.
The quinta covers the hollow of a semi-circle of hills facing south over the river. Quite simply, it is defying description for me. “Magnificent” feels somehow both overwrought and a bit feeble to describe it. For me, the Douro landscape is just overwhelmingly beautiful, but it is a very austere beauty, almost otherworldly or prehistoric – I have no point of reference, no comparison I can make to convey either the appearance or the impact of the terrain. Malvedos is an epitome of that.
The gentle clamour of song birds never ceases – as I was wandering up the hills I was delighted to watch them flicker in and out of the trees on either side. For an area as intensively cultivated, a landscape as man-made as the Douro with its terraces, it is a slight surprise and a deep pleasure that it is not – could never be – a monocultural landscape, like the prairies of Kansas or the vinyard-prairies of Bordeaux. Besides the vines, there are olive trees of course, everywhere, scattered amongst the vines but also in areas where vines would be impossible – just too steep a pitch to be landscaped into terraces. There were citrus of every type and fig trees – for the first time I’ve seen one laden with fruit – they didn’t do that back in England! There is a tiny brook coming down a narrow ravine across the property, and trees and plants of every description huddle over the water.
The heat is intense – I can remember when I was a child seeing heat shimmers over the macadam roadways when the temperature was over 30° C. Here, for the first time, I am seeing a heat shimmer over unpaved soil and stone. I cannot imagine what the temperature is – I think the air alone is not so bad, but the sun is nailing, the breeze has been still and the sky nearly cloudless. I admit I had to retreat and stay indoors mid-afternoon.
Occasionally I could hear the drone of a tractor, shifting from baritone to tenor as it crawled up the hillside. But otherwise…near perfect silence as far as man-made noises. Only a few vehicles came into the quinta, only once every few hours does the train rattle below on its way into or out of Tua, and rarely does a boat pass on the river, but the landscape subdues all those noises to insignificance.
In lieu of another 4000 words…
From slightly up the river:
From near the top of the property looking down:
From the back of the house looking up:
From less than halfway up the height of the property looking upriver: