Deep in the Portuguese countryside and surrounded by swathes of vineyards, Quinta da Aveleda is certainly one destination you won’t want to miss off your Portugal bucket list. Located around a half hour drive from the city of Porto, this breathtaking destination boasts beautiful botanical gardens and the chance to sample local wines and cheeses. Here’s your ultimate guide on everything you need to know before visiting Quinta da Aveleda…
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A History of Quinta da Aveleda
The estate’s main building dates all the way back to the 17th-century and is still in use as a summer family residence to this day. Dripping in trailing ivy and characterised by a lace-work veranda, the mansion house can be spied during walking tours of the gardens, though the interiors themselves are closed to the public.
Since 1870, the Guedes family have been producing wine on the estate. Today, wines from Portugal are world-famous, much in part thanks to the much loved Porto and the green wine (vinho verde) of the Douro valley. In 2011, Quinta da Aveleda was recognised for its quality wines when it won the international Best of Wine Tourism award.
Today, along with a wine tasting area, brandy storage unit, incredible country house, countless vines, and a stunning vineyard, the Quinta da Aveleda estate has a bottling plant on site. Each year, over 19 million bottles of wine are produced, with approximately 70% going for export. The bottling machinery is so advanced that the equipment can produce up to 10,000 bottles an hour!
The botanical gardens at Quinta da Aveleda
A duck palace, a towering goat’s haven, and more hydrangea bushes than you’ve ever likely spied before: Quinta da Aveleda is easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Northern Portugal. And not just because of the tranquil ambience of the property, the fact that the garden hosts over 100 varieties of camellias, or the well-thought-out gardens.
Some of the trees on the estate have been in situ for centuries (unusual specimens include Japanese Cedar and a Swamp Cypress Tree), while follies and fountains are to be found in abundance. Given the chance, be sure to book yourself onto a guided tour of the gardens! (check or further information here) Must-see attractions of the Quinta da Aveleda botanical gardens include;
Goat tower: Home to a family of happy goats, this towering structure is hidden among a forest of lush green trees and rises up, almost unexpectedly, when wandering around the estate. The garden boasts a large number of wildlife species, while ducks also have their own little ‘duck palace’ pond, while striking peacocks roam freely around the grounds.
Gatekeeper’s cottage: Pretty, thatched, and located adjacent to what was once the main entrance to the property, the Gatekeeper’s cottage is probably the most photogenic place in the Aveleda estate. Nearby, a series of ponds offer the kind of shady spots that are perfect for curling up with a book and escaping the harsh Portuguese sun for a couple of hours.
Ourdoor ceremony area: Serene and peaceful, the outdoor ceremony area is still used for ceremonies by the family today. Tucked away in a corner of the estate that’s close to the vines, not far from the house, and in its own little world, you can only begin to imagine how stunning an outdoor wedding ceremony held there must be!
Wine & cheese tasting at Quinta da Aveleda
For those who love sampling local dishes and cuisine while exploring a new area, booking a wine and cheese tasting experience at the Aveleda Estate is an absolute must. Set against the backdrop of a sprawling complex of buildings crafted from the local stone, the wine tasting area is set over two floors.
While the upper floor is an intimate space of wooden seats and comfortable seating, the lower floor is marked by its two banquet length tables along which larger groups can sample and enjoy local wines. Also on the ground floor is an expansive shop selling produce that’s made locally, and of course, selling wine!
During our time at the vineyard, we enjoyed a selection of several locally produced crisp white wine varieties, as well as some dairy cheeses (both hard and soft). Served with crackers that were a little too easy to eat! We munched on our nibbles and sipped on our wine as our tour guide gave us further information about the history of Portuguese wine and the Aveleda estate itself; an altogether enjoyable experience!
Brandy is also produced on site in large barrels, where the tipple is then aged for up to thirty years. Stroll into the brandy cellar (the oak barrels are housed in a cool barn close to the mansion house) and the smell hits you before your eyes even have the chance to adjust to the small and dimly lit room.
Things to know before you visit the bodega and gardens
You should know before you go that the gardens can be viewed as part of a guided tour only. Once upon a time, you would have been free to roam the grounds at your leisure. Unfortunately, due to vandalism, the gardens are once more by appointment at certain times of the week (and year).
Once you arrive, you’ll need to check in with security and present a form of ID (i.e. passport, driving license, etc). Otherwise, if you want to visit the bodega as a day trip from Porto, then the best way to reach the area is by car. After all, public transportation in the region is limited.
For those who are interested in art, architecture, culture, and history, seeking out some of the stunning Romanesque architecture located in this part of Northern Spain during your time the Vinho Verde is an absolute must. After all, the wine-growing region can be found along the Rota do Românico.
One particularly fascinating nearby ecclesiastical buildings of note is that of the Monastery of Cête, which is made all the more magical by the presence of a tiny cloister with plenty of greenery. The construction of this ecclesiastical building is typically attributed to Gonçalo Oveques, who is now buried in a chapel on site.