A long avenue of platens leads up to the main entrance way to Porto Franco, a low and long building with the traditional profile of agricultural residences in Alenquer.
The property has been in the family since his great grandfather purchased it from the Viscount of Chanceleiros, peer of the Kingdom, Civil Governor of Lisbon and Minister of Public Works under King Luís. A historic figure in Portuguese viticulture, Sebastião José de Carvalho, the first Viscount of Chanceleiros, founded his reputation not only on the introduction of innovative agricultural techniques but also for replanting with American vines following the decimation caused by phylloxera.
Some two centuries later, Porto Franco has become the central operational focal point for a core of properties either acquired or inherited by his father.
Currently, the winery and vineyards are under the control of DFJ Vinhos, S.A.
Across the lands surrounding the patios adjoining the house there are streaks of colours enlivening the landscape: Alfrocheiro on one side, Moscatel on the other, the new Alicante Bouschet vine a little further on and to the left, Syrah, a wine that yielded 14 tons per hectare immediately in its second year of planting.
Indeed, a constant concern of José Neiva Correia has been to achieve higher yields from his vines without ever undermining the quality of the grapes. In actual fact and similar to what has been achieved in Australia, one of the largest wine exporters that carved out its market segment with quality new wines at low prices, this winemaker has sought to accelerate the productive lifecycle of the vines so as to attain the competitiveness able to bring about the best quality at the lowest price. Take the case of the ten hectares of Caladoc, a variety he introduced into Portugal and which derives from crossbreeding Grenache and Malbec, first planted in spring of 2007, the plantation is now up and producing whereas the average time expected would be between three and five years. Simply taste any of the Grand´Arte Caladoc, DFJ Caladoc & Alicante Bouschet, Alta Corte and Paxis Estremadura wines to understand the extent of the success of the many José Neiva Correia experiments.
Nevertheless, there are many more. On the 200 hectares of totally reconverted vineyards, where there is not a single old vine, José Neiva, trusting in his innovative capacities, introduced new varieties some of which were then considered unthinkable for the region. However, they have now materialized and underlie the renown of various varieties and bi-varieties representing the DFJ Vinhos brand. To list just a couple of examples, take the Grand´Arte Alvarinho, produced outside the Vinho Verde demarcated region, or Grand´Arte Pinot Noir, a French variety that is difficult to grow but responsible for practically mythical wines such as the Grand Cru Romanée Conti. Then there is Merlot, a unique variety in Châteaux Petrus, and also unprecedented across the lands of Alenquer and which resulted in the highly appreciated Grand´Arte Merlot and DFJ Tinta Roriz & Merlot.
A little further on, on the other side of the house, there are the former wine cellars still bearing the 18th century Lobo Garcez Palha family coat of arms. They are now restored and renovated to the modernist standards: the tanks are in fibre glass and epoxy, the covers and mouths substituted by stainless steel and vacuum filters for the whites and reds ensure musts are free of suspended solids. Just half an hour separates the picking of the grapes, an entirely mechanized process, and their arrival at the facilities to begin deseeding, crushing and the subsequent wine making process.
Only on the small vineyards given over to grapes for the top end Francos and Francos Reserva wines is harvesting by hand so that each bunch is carefully selected.