A RETROSPECT OF WINEMAKING IN BAIRRADA

A PRODUÇÃO DE VINHO NA BAIRRADA EM RETROSPETIVA
THE ORIGIN OF ADEGA QUATRO CRAVOS FROM A FEW BARRELS OF WINE

Looking back in time we get to the appointment of the parish priest of the Church of Saint Bartholomew of Troviscal, in 1722, a promotion from his previous appointment of curate to the dean of the Church of Saint Andrew of Vila Boa de Quires in Marco de Canavezes. The priest Manuel Pinto de Aguiar was the maternal uncle of Sebastiana Pinto da Mota and the niece came to live with him to Troviscal at the moment of his appointment to the parish. Sebastiana Pinto da Mota married on August 31 of 1732, at the Church of Saint Bartholomew of Troviscal, with Manuel da Fonseca Carvalho, a resident of Troviscal.

The family of the priest Manuel was very well connected at the time, as blood relatives to the Moreiras of Gandra, in Paredes, and the uncle-priest shepherd the young couple, with Manuel da Fonseca Carvalho being promoted to ensign in 1741 and fast tracked to captain in 1755. Within the Troviscal society, such position was one of high social status and afforded the family a solid foundation within the local and regional society. From the union six children came to be, three boys and three girls. The third son, António José da Mota Carvalho marries in 1771 to Mariana Joaquina da Conceição and from this branch of the family came the union to the Cravo family wih the marriage in 1906 of Martinho da Silva Cravo, from Quinta da Gala, and Maria Rosa Domingues Martins, daughter from a second marriage of Sebastião da Mota Domingues Gala and Francisca Ferreira Martins. Up until the end of the nineteenth century the production of wine boiled down to a few dozen wine barrels. In 1911 the Adega Quatro Cravos is built, with concrete vats replacing the barrels..

THE COLLECTION OF PARISH RECORDS OF 1758.

In the memoires of the priests of the time we find references to the wine cultures and mention of the prevalence of wine making in the sub-region of Bairrada and Gândara.

The sub-region of Bairrada is roughly made up of the Certoma river basin, encompassing the counties of Oliveira do Bairro, Anadia, Mealhada and parts of Cantanhede. Its northern borders reach the Serra do Buçaco and the Atlantic Ocean, to the west. However, the renowned geographer Amorim Girão makes note of a subsection which he named Gândara, extending in a strip of coastal dunes boxed in between the Serra de Buarcos to the south and the lower Vouga river to the north. We can match this area to the remaining part of Cantanhede and also a portion of Mira, alhough the latter remains within the area of influence of Ria de Aveiro while in the former the characteristics of the gandarese region stand out.

The parish records are scarce in information useful in providing a relevant picture of the economic and agricultural setting of the region. The priests, for the most part, abstained from recording supplementary considerations, instead focusing on answering concisely to the enquiries. Without those comments, the task of reviewing and interpreting the reality of the time is much harder. Maize remains the staple culture among the cereals, with wheat and rye far behind. All the records note the presence of maize and its abundance. Nevertheless, considering the mentions made by the priests to wheat, we can deduce a slight advantage compared to rye. Barley is briefly mentioned in the memoires of Mealhada, Oliveira do Bairro and Cantanhede, while oat was limited to the parishes of Bolho and Murtede, in Cantanhede. While traditionally grown alongside maize, beans are not present in the three northern counties of the region. On the other hand, in Cantanhede, all parishes record its presence, with mentions of the white and galician varieties.

Wine production was also relevant to the economy of the region, recorded in nearly every parish in the Memoires The priests did not leave much information needed to identify the varieties used; only in Barcouço (in Mealhada) the wording “maduro” is used. This region is actually the first, within the geographical framework mentioned, where the quality of the wine is recognized, as one can attest by the comment previously transcribed belonging to the priest of São João da Madeira. It is also in Anadia that is registed the greatest dissemination of the olive culture, followed by Cantanhede. In some parishes the production of olive oil was enough to supply the population. The information provided by the priests do not allow for an understanding of the general living conditions of the common folk, in the region. A few short comments do give an idea that the land with the capacity to provide enough for subsistence was in short supply. For example, in Casal Comba (county of Mealhada), we find the priest claiming that “all that is harvested is not enough to sustain the people of this parish”. In Cadima (county of Cantanhede), the priest mentions that only fifty people could sustain themselves with what they harvested, while the others were forced to buy all kind of essential goods. In Bolho, county of Cantanhede, the priest comments on the wealth of the population, mentioning that “they are all poor, the richest man must have no more than two thousand cruzados”, and about Casal saying “it is also poor, has forty six residents and not one with more than four hundred thousand réis”. The same priest of Bolho bemoans the dry land, incapable of providing enough. However, we also find places capable of self-sustenance or even surplus in some products, such as Ançã, in Cantanhede, considered “plentiful in olive and wines, with them relieving many towns where those were in short” and not missing in cereals as it had “more than enough bread for its habitants”.

MENTIONS IN THE 1877 WORK OF MARQUES GOMES.

The publication “O Districto de Aveiro, Noticia Geographica, Estatistica. Chorographica, Heraldica, Archeologica, Historica e Biographica” by Marques Gomes in 1877 continues the report on the activity of winemaking in Bairrada.

According to the author, Bairrada became an important winemaking center after João Baptista Ferreira, one the first landowners in Mealhada, began planting great amounts of grapevines in 1820, with the Quinta da Tapada achieving great significance, replacing the growing of wheat. In 1822, Baptista Ferreira produced one hundred and twelve barrels of wine, which were sold for 25$000 réis. Such a success emboldened the farmers to plant more. From 1825 to 1834 the export of wine grew stupendously, especially in 1834 that saw the harbour of Porto closed. Before 1818 the bigger farmers collected a few wine barrels. In 1820, although some development in winemaking had been achieved, only a few vineyards were of note such as Sacarroas, Tapada, Estrepai, Portaria and then some other minor vineyards. In 1848 oidium struck the vineyards and almost destroyed them. In 1862 the damage began to subdue and the production of wine began increasing rapidly.

Today Bairrada is more prosperous than ever. The county of Mealhada alone exports more than 600 barrels of wine per year. The wines of Bairrada, although of a single kind, can be distinguished between vinhos de embarque (wines for export) and vinhos de consumo (wines for consumption), distinct and distinctive by colour.

The author considers Mealhada, in Bairrada, the center of the most important winemaking region in Portugal, after Douro.

Marques Gomes published his work in 1877 and could not imagine the nightmare the XIX century would become for the history of winemaking. He saw the growth of the vineyards in the region from 1820 to 1848, the year the plague of oidium struck, disease responsible for destroying the vineyards until the problem was solved by treating the leaves of the vines with Bordeaux mixture.

He could not imagine the earthquake that would ruin viticulture for during the second half of the century, in 1865, the plague of phylloxera creeps up in the Douro region before quickly spreading throughout the country. It is curious how the author writes in 1877 that “Bairrada is as prosperous as ever” without mentioning the impact of phylloxera in the region.

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