Log In / Join Now

Portuguese Wine Pioneer Cristiano van Zeller Sells Quinta Vale D. Maria—But Keeps It in the Family

Aveleda, a leading Vinho Verde producer owned by van Zeller's cousins, buys the revered Douro winery
Francisca van Zeller and her father Cristiano will remain involved at their winery.

Luis Antunes
Posted: August 23, 2017

A recent business deal in Portugal is a blend of wine and family and a sign of the growing success of Douro wines. Vintner Cristiano van Zeller and his wife and children, owners of the Quinta Vale D. Maria winery in the Douro Valley, signed a deal earlier this month to sell the company to Aveleda, a leading Vinho Verde producer owned by their cousins Martim and António Guedes. The deal includes the winery and 111 acres of vineyards; the sale price was not disclosed.

As part of the sale to Aveleda, van Zeller, his wife, Joana Lemos, and their three children have become minority shareholders in Aveleda, and Cristiano remains executive director of Quinta Vale D. Maria. He’s also the head of Aveleda’s new fine wine division. His daughter Francisca stays as brand manager, while Joana Pinhão remains the chief winemaker.

Cristiano told Wine Spectator that this is a new life, one that they “are very happy and very enthusiastic to embrace.”

Founded in 1870, Aveleda is the largest exporter of Vinho Verde, and owns Casal Garcia, Follies, Charamba and the Adega Velha brandy. Casal Garcia is a popular brand in Portugal and the top-selling Portuguese wine in the U.S. The success of Aveleda has allowed it to build an increasingly higher-end portfolio. The white wines have been significantly improved by investments in viticulture and winemaking, with the help of consultants Valérie Lavigne and the late Denis Dubourdieu.

In early 2016, Aveleda purchased the Seis Quintas estate, acquiring 125 acres of vineyards in Douro Superior. Buying Quinta Vale D. Maria gives them prime vineyards facing Rio Torto, close to Pinhão, as well as one of the most prestigious brands in modern Portuguese wines.

Quinta Vale D. Maria was created by van Zeller and Lemos from land purchased from Lemos’ relatives in 1996, following van Zeller’s sale of Quinta do Noval, a pioneering Douro Valley estate. Van Zeller grew Quinta Vale D. Maria into another top Douro brand, for both Vintage Port and table wines.

The particular character of the Rio Torto terroir yields a special finesse and elegance to the quinta’s dry reds and Ports. Van Zeller later released a top-end red called CV, and recently the quinta started to issue bottlings from the most emblematic blocks of its old vineyards. The brand also now includes white wines from purchased grapes, and entry-level reds from vineyards in Douro’s north bank, just past Pinhão.

Van Zeller says that he and Francisca can now concentrate all their efforts “on creating business and brand awareness for Quinta Vale D. Maria and, of course, for the Douro region and its wines and Ports.”

He added that these efforts will now be supported by “one of the most efficient and professional wine company teams in Portugal.” He will continue to personally co-own the Douro Boys brand. His partners collectively agreed to keep Quinta Vale D. Maria in the group.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.