“At last, a man of my size” was the greeting Countess Theresa Schönborn gave the Good Value Guru, warmly shaking his hand when he visited her Marquesa de Cadaval estate in Muge yesterday. The GVG, not being fully up to speed on the Almanach de Gotha, put his size 10s in it when he asked if the Marquesa still lived on the property. “My grandmother died in 1996 aged 96,” replied the Countess “she was kept alive by a tot of Vodka and orange juice every lunch and dinner and I have a 98 year old uncle who has just planted 7ha of vineyards in Colares near Sintra. Alas, I’m only a Countess.” “Were you demoted for bad behavior?” countered the GVG “No, my father was a Count from the Rheingau, from Schloss Schönborn, have you heard of it?
I loved my grandmother a lot. When my father died, my brother inherited the German titles and property, while I took my mother’s inheritance. I wanted to commemorate my grandmother, so I asked our winemaker to make a special wine named after her. Touriga Naçional is my favourite grape (I can’t stand Chardonnay or Shiraz)” – “so don’t visit Australia” interjected the GVG, helpfully – “and we added some Alicante Bouschet and Trincadeira.” The jury at the Concours Mondial tasted the wine blind in 2008 and gave it gold, which is quite appropriate, as I’ve just arrived in Palermo for jury duty on this year’s Concours.
While a Concours gold is certainly a recommendation, blends are not to everyone’s taste. As the Countess continued “My father was more a single varietal sort of man. When he married my mother in 1953, he planted mono-culture vineyards here on Cadaval – some of the first Pinot Noir in Portugal (do you like it? French people hate it) as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and some bush vine Trincadeira, which we bottle as single varietal wines. It’s hard to sell Cabernet Sauvignon in Portugal as people think the quality if inferior to Portuguese varietals.” The GVG begged to differ after tasting the 2007 vintage and suggested she export it.
“We do export around 50% of our production to the USA, Germany, Finland and Holland. Last year we sold 40 000 bottles of our Padre Pedro red to Marks and Spencer in the UK – a blend of Trincadeira, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, closed with a cork! The New York Times voted it their best value red under $10. Padre Pedro was our village priest and one of our vineyards is named after him. People told us not to bring religion into our brands but mother insisted on the name and besides, you can use the rosé as communion wine, like Padre Pedro did. I personally don’t understand rosé and don’t think it makes serious wine. I serve it with tortillas.” The GVG remarked on the excellent value for money and moderate alcohols (13½%) of all three wines in the Padre’s range. “This is my fight, this is my war. Moderate alcohol is something I insist on. 14½, 15% is just too much.”
With Sunday the anniversary of the 1974 coup in which many farms were seized and occupied by communists, the GVG enquired as to how Cadaval survived the revolution. “We had no problems at all. My mother and grandmother had wisely given each farm worker their own plot of land two years earlier. In addition, my grandmother was a great friend of our dictator António Salazar (a very clever man) who used to ask her advice on a music competition he wanted to establish. ‘For credibility, you need international entries, even from behind the Iron Curtain’ she remarked. Salazar replied that Russians were welcome to compete, as long as the Marquesa looked after them and their KGB minders. When the revolution came, I suspect Moscow told the Portuguese communist party to leave my grandmother alone.”