Located in Portugal’s centre, just south of the Douro Valley, the Dão is one of the oldest established wine regions in the country. Many of its vineyards are situated at an altitude of 150 to 450 metres above sea level, which means more sunlight and temperature variation, ideal conditions for growing varietals. One of its wineries, named Taboadella, has existed for centuries — and recently received a gleaming expansion and renovation.
The Taboadella estate — owned by the Amorim family, renowned for its cork manufacturing business — is located on a triangular plateau, between two valleys near the small town of Silva de Cima. A winepress built on a monolithic boulder on the property is one of the oldest vestiges of viticulture in the region; it contrasts sharply with the new facilities for the old winery. Designed by Portuguese architect Carlos Castanheira, the resplendent building reconfigures the oversized, run-down storage shed that once existed there.
To properly service the 40-hectare vineyard, which complements wine-making facilities with a visitor’s centre and tasting room, the structure sprawls over 2,500 square metres, and houses two large naves (ships, in Portuguese) where the wine is produced and a vat hall where it is stored.
In front of the building, an arrivals quay receives and sorts the grapes. Inside the concrete-walled vat hall, a mezzanine allows for gravity filling: a simplified process where wine pours from a tank above. Below it, there is a row of 15 truncated, stainless steel vats holding red wine, another eight holding white wine and a row of 10 micro-cement vats. According to the architects, the space will eventually be able to store 800 barrels of wine — doubling its previous capacity.
Along the edges of the vat hall, clerestories allow just the right amount of sunlight to filter in without disturbing the quality of the wines. The building’s exterior makes use of cork cladding — a renewable, insulating and weather-resistant material, while the roof, interspersed with dormer windows, features corrugated aluminum, which will retain its shine even under the harsh sun.
Importantly, the architects made sure that a tourist’s tasting route would not cross paths with the hustle and bustle of the production circuit. Above the entrance to the vat hall, a separate mezzanine overlooking the estate is reserved for welcoming visitors — professionals and aficionados alike — for wine-tasting and assessment.
Outside, the interplay of light and shadows created by the criss-crossing beams gives the winery a singular presence — an almost golden glow, when seen from afar. Up close, the beams dynamically frame views of the surrounding hills for guests dining on the building’s expansive veranda.
Another building, which once housed a barn, was also redeveloped – into a shop and a tasting room – by Porto-based architect Ana Vale. The intimacy of this setting is a sweet counterbalance to the capaciousness of the wine-making buildings. With no detail left unconsidered, it’s safe to say that Taboadella is set to continue its wine-making legacy for years to come.
In Portugal’s Dão wine country, Carlos Castanheira rejuvenates a winery on a 1,500-year-old vineyard.