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This iconic Douro property is recorded as far back as 1565. In the early 19th century the quinta was acquired by António Bernard Ferreira, a well known Port grower and businessman, who began a programme of building and landscaping on an unprecedented scale. Old stone walled terraces were repaired and new ones created, bringing approximately 100 hectares under vine of the 325 (803 acre) hectare property. An adega was built to match the scale of the vineyards: whereas typical lagares (the stone tanks in which grapes are treaded by foot) hold about 12 pipes of port, the eight lagares at Vesuvio each hold 25 pipes of wine (14,000 litres) and require 50 people to tread the grapes.
Ultimately the property passed into the hands of António’s redoubtable daughter in law, Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira. She oversaw the building of the grand estate house and chapel, and thereafter frequently used Quinta do Vesuvio as her principal residence. It was Dona Antónia who bottled and sold the Vesuvio wines under their own name – which was an extraordinary practice in the 19th century – and brought the quinta and its wines into renown. She faced the devastation of phylloxera in the 1870’s, shifting to production of olives, almonds and oranges when the grape crops failed, and kept her labour force further employed with the construction of a 16 km stone wall to encircle the property. As phylloxera came under control, vineyards were replanted with grafted vines, and wine production resumed. Dona Antónia’s descendants continued production at Vesuvio, but blended or sold the wines to other shippers; although the Quinta remained a legend, the wines became less well known.
In 1989 the Symington family acquired the property with the intention to restore the quinta and its wines to their former glory. The house and adega were restored and a massive planting program undertaken which extended the area under vine to 136 hectares, as well as revitalising and re-planting selected existing vineyards. The decision was made to retain the tradition of treading by foot, and to make only Vintage Port – no other Port styles are made under the Quinta do Vesuvio name. If necessary, no Vintage Port will be made when the stringent quality criteria have not been met, as in 1993 and 2002 when weather conditions were a challenge.