Spending some wintertime in Portugal is always a good idea. Even when the Portuguese say that it’s bad weather, for us living up north, it still feels like spring. On one of the last days of December 2019 we left sunny Algarve and drove up the IC27 to Arraiolos, Alentejo. Actually, we never drove up this way and were amazed by the empty street, the calmness and beauty of the Natural Park of Guadiana. This route is a great alternative to the highway A2 and you save a lot of money on highway tolls.
We had a very special day planed at Quinta do Quetzal. To be honest, I did not really know what to expect. First, I thought that it would be another winery with a restaurant. We were very positively surprised.
Quinta do Quetzal is set in the heart of the Alentejo region on the rich slopes of Vidigueira, close to the oldest known Roman winery in Portugal and Spain. The region’s microclimate and its hills make it the perfect location for a unique terroir. The Quinta is more than just a winery. Since 2016, Quinta do Quetzal is also a restaurant, shop and art center. The building is partly covered with schist slates. The center stands out but also seamlessly fits into its surroundings. The use of natural local flora on the estate completes the visitor’s experience of the natural habitat of the Alentejo region.
A family winery
You all know by now that I’m most interested in the people behind a brand, a place and their stories. Quinta do Quetzal is not own by Portuguese but by a family that fell in love with this country over 40 years ago and never stopped coming back. It fascinates me to see how people from all around the world seem to get enchanted by my first home country and how warmly they feel about it.
The founders of Quinta do Quetzal are the Dutch couple Cees and Inge de Bruin. They have been collectors of contemporary art and patrons of culture for more than four decades. Aveline de Bruin, their daughter, directs and curates the art center. Through Quinta do Quetzal they hope to share their passion for the Portuguese culture, nature, food and wine.
Their private contemporary art collection is the starting point for each exhibition. The Quetzal Art Center offers a contemporary art exhibition space of 450 m². It is situated in a historically rich region in rural and scenic Alentejo (Portugal), far away from the metropolitan art hubs. From its inception, Quetzal focuses on the development of a contemporary art program that is to appeal to both a specialist audience and a broader, curious public. It is driven by a desire to test art’s purpose outside the traditional institutional and commercial structures. Quetzal Art Center presents exhibitions with works by both established and emerging international artists, with an emphasis on finding connections between artistic generations, and stimulating curatorial experiment.
“I love my mother’s quote that collecting is like picking flowers in a field, and so my job is to arrange them together.”
– Aveline de Bruin
Susan Philipsz x Quinta Quetzal
Our personal art highlight was the work of Turner Prize-Winning artist Susan Philipsz on a breathtaking hill on the estate. Our guide António walked with us through the vineyards without spoiling a thing. We did not know that a big musical surprise was coming towards us. When almost on the top of the hill, we heard some gentle and calming singing voices. At first, we were a bit confused as there was no one around. António than explained to us that it was an artwork. The sound came from speakers hidden in the trees. To explain the beauty, we experienced in words, is simply impossible. There was a soft wind going on and a tender lullaby caressed us. I personally, could have stayed there for ours. For me it felt like one of the best meditations ever.
“Susan Philipsz has explored the psychological and sculptural potential of sound. Using recordings, predominantly of her own voice, the artist creates immersive environments of architecture and song that heighten the visitor’s engagement with their surroundings while inspiring thoughtful introspection. The music Philipsz selects – which has ranged from sixteenth century ballads and Irish folk tunes to David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust – responds specifically to the space in which the work is installed. While each piece is unique, the storylines and references are often recognizable, exploring familiar themes of loss, longing, hope, and return. These universal narratives trigger personal reactions while also temporarily bridging the gaps between the individual and the collective, as well as interior and exterior spaces.”
More about her artwork for Quinta Quetzal here.
Walking up the little hill to the sound installation of Susan Philipsz
After visiting the estate and still overwhelmed with our art sound experience, we had a delicious lunch at the restaurant with a spectacular view over the vineyards. The restaurant is awarded with the ‘Prémio Melhor Restaurante Alentejo 2018’ and in our opinion really deserved it. We very much enjoyed our delicious dishes with flavours inspired by traditional food from the Alentejo in a relaxing atmosphere. The restaurant cooks with fresh regional ingredients and uses their own aromatic herbs and flowers.
View from the restaurant terrace
Details by the bar next to the restaurant
São Cucufate Ruins
We ended our visit at the São Cucufate Ruins. They are situated about 10 minutes away by car. Quinta do Quetzal also offers some guidance. Or you can also just visit the ruins by yourself. Specially in winter, you’ll be amazed by the nature taking over the ruins. Simply beautiful!
Overall, we had a truly unique experience and we recommend it to everyone driving through Alentejo. It’s also perfect for a family Sunday. Thank you António for the great day we’ve spent with you and all the insights you gave us. We’re coming back for sure!
Quinta do Quetzal offers various activities on and around their estate. The Quetzal Art Center, store and restaurant are open from Wednesday to Sunday. Here you’ll find all about the current and upcoming exhibition.