“The Poor Man’s Motor”

Meet Arinto. When you visit he’ll come to meet you. The Portuguese landscape was once covered in Donkeys like Arinto. Today he’s one of a dwindling, rare breed.

Arinto is a Miranda Donkey. For centuries they were the “arms and legs” of Portuguese agriculture. They made otherwise barren landscapes workable. With their powerful legs and muscular chest they were the engine for families who could not afford one. 

Miranda Donkeys are also kind, and companionable, and far more sociable and docile than other donkey breeds. You’ll discover that as soon as you head to Arinto’s field. After the arrival of affordable cars and farm machinery, Miranda donkey numbers fell. Many were abandoned. But those who kept their donkeys did so for companionship and love. Today ninety percent of Miranda donkey owners are over 75. Unable to part from the animals with whom they’ve shared so much.

But that companionable character is giving the Miranda donkey a new role. Today thousands of people suffering anxiety and other mental health disorders are treated with Asinotherapia. Here the donkey is a “co-therapist”. It’s particularly effective with children with disabilities. But we find it useful on the Quinta after a challenging day too. There are few problems that can’t be improved after a private chat with Arinto.

We – people – made the Miranda donkey. We bred their powerful frame. Their long, soft, hairy ears and big, clodding hooves. We made them a bit like us. To the point that Miranda donkey milk is believed to be the closet to human milk of any animal in the world. Quinta de Boa Esperanca was established to live in harmony with nature. Arinto and the Miranda donkey is a living embodiment of that harmony. That – and so many other reasons – is why we love him.

Our first “influencer” – the Duke of Wellington

Some people say wine is in “the age of the influencer”. They’re more than a 100 years late. Wine influencers existed long before the age of Instagram and social media. And our first was The Duke of Wellington.

The wine lands north of Lisbon have exported wine for centuries. And particularly to Great Britain. We sent wine during the age of Queen Elizabeth and local wines are mentioned in the plays of William Shakespeare. But out biggest boost came around 1815.

The Duke of Wellington knew this region well from the Peninsular War (1807-1814). And he returned to London with a love for the wines he’d tried. Especially Arinto – our local white grape. In fact he returned with more than a love for it. He brought vast quantities of Arinto from north of Lisbon with him. 

Like today, Portugal’s native grape varieties were less well-known than other countries’ wines. So it became known as “Portuguese Hock”, because the wines it most closely resembled were the Hocks of Germany. (Made famous by another influencer, Queen Victoria).

Soon Portuguese Hock was the toast of the most fashionable city in the world. The favourite of its most famous military commander and eventually its Prime Minister. Deliveries were easy, given his address “No.1, London”.

Arinto is enjoying a revival today. Its beautiful citrus-lemon aromas suit fish and lighter dishes. And its freshness – even in the warm summers of Lisboa – make it a refreshing, bright aperitif. Our first influencer had excellent taste.

Harvest

The celebration of life is the most rewarding way to thank friends

Our harvest celebration is more than a party. It’s a celebration of life. The wines and food we share are important. But most important are the friends old and new who come together at the Quinta.

It’s local celebration, and an international one. Our last was in 2019. A raucous crowd of food loving friends arrived from London and beyond. They were met by raucous friends from the Zibreira coast. Our cousins and uncles who fish the Atlantic. And the team here who make our wines.

Some cooked and some ate. Then some swapped roles. Oisin – originally from Ireland, now the landlord of The Guinea Grill in Mayfair, London – took control of the grill. The old men of the sea might be masters at cooking sardines. But he would look after the tongs for our steaks.

The early autumn sun sets, and more bottles and magnums emerge. If anyone stepped away from the party, they’d see the windmill in the distance gently turning, as the Atlantic breeze flows inland. But the harvest revellers break into song. Protected from cool air by the warming cloak of Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, and Syrah.

We will party together again. For eighteen months a WhatsApp group of friends have made plans, shared jokes and talked about “the last time.” They – you – are our friends. We know that celebrating life is the most rewarding way to thank friends. And we know soon we’ll be able to celebrate life together at Quinta de Boa Esperanca again.