Especially those of us in the wine business

We tend to think (especially those of us in the wine business) that vineyards are a good thing. Those neat parallel rows of vines marching away into the distance bring order to the countryside. A vineyard is, after all, so much more photogenic than a field of potatoes or oilseed rape and the end product far more captivating than mash or margarine. But rows of vines can impact on the countryside in the same way as rows of suburban houses. This thought occurred to me following a conversation with one of my elderly tenants who recalled her memories of Quinta do Centro thirty years ago, before the first vineyard was planted. In those days vines were mixed together chaotically with olive and fruit trees. Alongside the narrow ribeira, which now drains the dam, were little hortas (vegetable gardens) tended by the tenants themselves who relied on them for their subsistence. And in the midst of this was an old fountain which she described to me as being like a ‘chapel’ with a statue of the local saint, São Gregório, blessing the gushing waters. All this was swept away with the same sort of dismissive flourish that destroyed so many of Britain’s town centres in the 1960s. Efficient monoculture replaced archaic polyculture. There is no going back but I resolve to make partial amends for past misdemeanors by rebuilding the fountain to her description above the tanque hidden in the middle of the Alicante Bouschet vineyard. I add it on my mental ‘to do list’.