© Quinta de la rosa 2013
"The Douro Valley must be one of the most dramatic and beautiful man made landscapes in the world."
As the Douro Valley is steep and rugged, the terrain has to be landscaped in order to provide a flat surface on which to plant the vines. Three different methods can be seen on the hillsides when you visit the area; these are the traditional stone walled terraces, patamares and vertical planting.
These are the oldest stone terraces, called socalcos, built by hand with loose stone walls holding back the earth. Vines, often just one or two rows on each terrace, were planted along the contour with small stone steps connecting one terrace to another. In the late
nineteenth century, terraces became larger with a sloping vineyard surface to give better sun exposure to the vines. More rows of vines, spaced further apart, could be planted which allowed the first mechanisation - a mule-drawn plough. Val de Inferno is a fine example of this type of old terracing and must be one of the world's most dramatic forms of vineyard landscaping.
Unfortunately, by the end of the twentieth century, the cost to build these terraces became prohibitive and instead were replaced by the more economical patamare (platform).
In the 1980's a new form of vineyard landscaping, 'the patamare', started to transform the Douro Valley. Encouraged by low cost loans from the World Bank, huge tracts of traditional vineyards were redeveloped using this new system. The 'patamares' were cut into the hillside using earth moving equipment which followed the contour lines of the slope. Tall earth banks were built instead of vertical stone walls. At the time it was considered the way forward - it was cheap, allowed mechanization and appeared to be as robust as the traditional walls.
Unfortunately, there are problems with these early patamares as the steep, unsupported earth banks are liable to suffer erosion and there can be difficulties with achieving uniform ripeness of the grapes. Where possible, at La Rosa, we now use a system of narrower terraces where the inclination of the slope is less steep minimizing the erosion problems of the original patamares. Some of our older terraced vineyards, such as Dona Sofia, have also been converted to patamares using very precise engineering. Part of the old wall is retained while the vineyard floor is made flat and wide enough to allow mechanisation.
Vertical planting or Vinha Alto has become a popular method in recent years where the vines are planted up and down the slope, rather than along the contour. The advantages of this system include a higher vine density per hectare and better canopy exposure. However, vertical planting is limited to slopes of around 30% incline as steeper gradients results in too much erosion and the inability to operate tractors. Most of our vineyards are not suitable for vertical planting except for Dona Patricia above Lamelas.