Beyond Tabuaço, the parish of Távora, its rock-lined road leading through an imposing forest and glimpses of a beautiful valley. We have left the Douro River on N323, the road that brings us to the Quinta do Convento de São Pedro das Águias. Hundred-year-old trees and a curtain of greenery veiling the Convent greet us. Vineyards, cherry and almond trees in bloom and orange trees still laden with fruit. The olive trees are springing back to life. The layers of beauty to the Távora Valley below are inspiring.
The altitude is staggering. The beauty of the countryside, which becomes wilder and more austere towards the horizon, showcases the biodiversity surrounding the Quinta do Convento de São Pedro das Águias. The vineyard, 47 hectares in total, is framed by over 100 hectares of forest native to the Mediterranean, with oak, cork and chestnut trees in a completely natural environment, the habitat of a vast array of animals, plants and microorganisms. A definite highlight is the birds, which immediately catch your attention: little songbirds provide an ongoing soundtrack as they go about their daily search for seeds and fruit. It is springtime and the many swallows creating a fluid dance over the trees, high in the sky, guardians of the whole valley, hover birds of prey such as eagles, kites and vultures.
Amongst the vineyards, olive trees line their access roads. The essentially informal grove involves the upkeep of 5,000 olive trees. Yet, above all in spring, the whole property resembles landscape painting, with cherry and almond trees, blooms and bushes, which not only help with soil composition and to prevent erosion, but also provide a hiding place for small animals, insects and organisms that in turn help with biological pest control and encourage pollination.
The vineyard, of course, is grateful. In minimal intervention winemaking, production sustainability depends on a balanced ecosystem. Even the stone walls, so characteristic of the Douro, do much more than supporting the vineyards: they are home to reptiles and insects crucial to the ecosystem. Flora and fauna established naturally around the vines turn out to be beneficial, even for humankind. Luckily, working at the Quinta do Convento de São Pedro das Águias we can delight in birdwatching experiences, harvesting oranges and cherries – for which the region is famous – or fleeing from the owls that pay the Convent a surprise visit at night.