Quinta do Quetzal: where art and wine come together | Questions & Answers with Reto Jörg,
Updated: Jan 9
Quinta do Quetzal is one of the hidden gems of Alentejo. What feels to be unique about it does not stand solely in its amazing wine but also on the architecture, the incredible views of gentle slopes and vineyards geometrically laid, the food and the internationally renown art collection. By themselves, all these would be nice but would not define the word gem (noun: 1. a precious or semi-precious stone; 2. an outstanding person or thing). What makes this place so amazing is the fact that all those features come together at the same moment, in the same place, as if its combination happening was able to make time go slower, or even stop. We need time to slow down, time for ourselves and for the ones we love. We need Quinta do Quetzal time. This is why it should not come as a surprise that we find a swiss managing all: Reto Jörg, your attentive time keeper!
Q.| Being a Swiss living in Portugal for more than 30 years what do you find to be captivating about this country?
A | Yes, I have been in Portugal for more than 30 years now, which means that I know it reasonably well. I would say the thing I most appreciate about the Portuguese is their general friendliness and affection towards everyone. Also, the fact that in Portugal you do not feel demographically pressured as in other places in the world and, thus enjoying a lot of space around you (mainly in Alentejo) which is something I also like about living here… And on top of that, Portugal has amazing food and wines. After thirty years, I do not expect to be leaving any time soon (laughs)!
Q | How did winemaking start for you?
A | Winemaking came in the 1980´s when, as an agriculture student in Switzerland, I took an internship at a small farm in the French Canton where this amazing new world of grape varieties, blends and terroirs was introduced to me… Some years later in the 1990's (always working in the agricultural sector) it really came into place when I was asked to produce wine at Herdade da Calada, here in Alentejo! Still in business!
Q | Besides wine, Quinta do Quetzal is also known to host the renown international contemporary art collection De Bruin-Heijn based in Rotterdam. What sort of impact has art on the world of wine and on wine sales? How can they bond?
A | What is interesting about having the Art Center on the same place we produce wine is that we are able to provide for a completely different experience for those who visit us. People are craving for more “out of the box” tours or visits or wines, experiences that are able to give them a sense of uniqueness. At Quinta do Quetzal we are fortunate to bind together these two art forms: one that comes out of artist´s minds, the other flowing from the winemaker´s creativity. That allows us to tell a different story about our wines and still be impactful on people's lives and perceptions.
Q | What makes you passionate about winemaking?
A | In winemaking, there is a different chapter to be opened every year. It is where my passion comes from... The challenge, the discovery, the unpredictability. Although you opened it, you do not know how that same chapter will end because there is no control for much of the characters that play a leading role while you are making wine. Rain, wind, sun, land, vineyards all play their part on a story you hope will end in incredible manner. If not, there is another chapter to be opened right after the one you ended!
Q | What makes your terroir unique?
A | We are fortunate to deal with unique geographic conditions. Contrary to what happens in Alentejo which, for the most part, is just flat land, at Quinta do Quetzal we find higher, medium and lower grounds with different soil compositions from which we take advantage, selecting specific grape varieties for each one of these geographically different segments. Adding to that, Quinta do Quetzal is also fortunate to be blissed by atlantic winds that provide for the freshness we find in our wines. It is not surprising that the Romans (we have a Roman archeological site very near our estate) moved their wine production to this area to take advantage of these quality conditions. And guess what: we are still here doing the same thing!
Q | How many grape varieties do you work with?
A | Our white blends come essentially from Antão Vaz which is an indiginous grape variety specifically growing on the Vidigueira wine region and brought in by the Fenicians. We also work with Roupeiro, Arinto e Verdelho. For red wines we have Alicante Bouschet, Syrah, Trincadeira and Alfrocheiro but due to climate change impacts, we focus more and more on Alicante Bouschet, Syrah and Alfrocheiro.
Q | What is your approach regarding sustainability? Is climate change having any impact?
A | All of our agricultural procedures rely on natural fertilization of land and vineyards in order to maintain the original soil balance and conditions. Also, ha I have told you climate change impacts made us focus on more resilient grape varieties, scrapping those traditional one that do not show much resistance to changing conditions.
Q | What is the most difficult thing about the wine business?
A | Price and sales. Quinta do Quetzal wines, Alentejo wines - and Portuguese wines in general - have exceptional quality by any standard (I have worked in this area in other parts of the world, so I am entitled to that opinion). However, the price with which they are tagged on international markets does note match that same quality and that is something we have to work to bring fairness to the quality they offer. That is our challenge!
Q | What wines do you drink at home?
A | It depends on the mood I am with (laughs). But if there are reasons to feel satisfied or even happy, I usually drink from our entry brand Guadalupe. But if those reasons are really to be celebrated, I will go for a Quetzal Reserva from a special year (2015 for instance) or a Quetzal Brut and hope that some is still left for the next day!
Q | With what sort of food would you recommend your wines to be drunk with?
A | For whites I would say fish and seafood Cataplana. For reds, roasted lamb in a wood oven with potatoes. I always enjoy those with Guadalupe Winemaker's Selection white or Quetzal Reserva Red!
Q | What is your favorite restaurant in the Alentejo region?
A | That has an obvious answer: Quinta do Quetzal´s restaurant!
Q | What do you do for fun and where do you expect to go on your next vacation?
A | Horse riding is something that I enjoy very much doing in my free time. as for holidays I will be trekking through the Austrian mountains, if I have the chance!
Quinta do Quetzal Reserva, White | 2015
Vidigueira, Alentejo, Portugal
The grapes were hand-picked as they mature. After crushed, the resulting must undergoed 48 to 72 hours of static clarification. The fermentation took place in new French oak barrels followed by 6 months with “batônnage” from 14ºC to 16ºC during 30 days.
Juicy on the nose with tropical fruits, Meyer lemons and almonds. Rich on the palate with more citrus, lemon balm and distinct toasted almond flavors. The toasted nuttiness lingers long, mingling with subtle peach on the finish. Its structure allows the pairing with white meats, refined and complex fish dishes and shellfish.
Quinta do Quetzal Reserva Red 2015
Vidigueira, Alentejo, Portugal
Regarding its tasting notes this wine is garnet in color, this rich red wine gives flavors of pomegranate mixed with darker fruits and spices, and an elegant note of cedar. The palate is well structured and fresh with long, silky tannins.
Very well suited for dark meats and dishes with exotic spice flavors that bring out its intense, dark fruit notes.Try it with lamb shawarma, gyros, Asian five spice pork and even Indian tandoori meats.
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Quinta do Quetzal 'Guadalupe' Winemaker's Selection Branco 2017
Vidigueira, Alentejo, Portugal
A full bodied and aromatic wine, this one gives aromas of wild herbs, berry jam and a hint of earth. Velvety on the palate, the dark fruit flavors are complemented by a substantial presence of earth and hints of leather that fade into a gentle and dry finish.
This wine is very well suited for dark meats and dishes with exotic spice flavors that bring out its intense, dark fruit notes.Try it with lamb shawarma, gyros, Asian five spice pork and even Indian tandoor meats.
Quinta do Quetzal 'Guadalupe' Winemaker's Selection Branco 2017 Vidigueira, Alentejo, Portugal
The winemaker's selected only the best Antão Vaz grapes from the harvest, resulting in a fresh flavored wine with mineral notes and tons of aromatics. Only part of the wine is fermented in French oak barrel, which gives it a discreet flavor of buttered toast to complement its fruity palate.
Quinta do Quetzal 'Guadalupe' Rosé 2019
Vidigueira, Alentejo, Portugal
This is a fruity and fresh rosé with juicy flavors of ripe strawberries and raspberries. The palate is dry and clean with bright acidity and a crisp finish.
This wine is great as an aperitif or to enjoy on a warm day, but it's also fantastic with charcuterie, salads, light pastas, fresh fruits or cold appetizers like potato or pasta salads.