Alentejo Wine Region - Our Favourite
Our favourite wine moment: Sitting in our Dona Ana Apartment balcony gazing out to sea, sipping a "fine glass of Alentejo red wine", reflecting on how great life IS!
Great wines have become accessible and appealing to men and women as a staple at social functions, for dinner parties, to savor at the end of a busy day AND of course to enjoy on vacation. A holiday in Portugal rewards the most discerning wine lover with the opportunity to tap into this plethora of fine wines
A full bodied red is our personal preference and Portugal has an abundance to offer. Portugal has several wine producing regions but our very favourite is the Alentejo Region where they deliver a consistent variety of silky smooth full bodied reds. To my palate they are “my Cabernet Sauvignon” equivalent. The average Portuguese supermarket carries these varieties with prices ranging from 4 Euros and up. We have yet to be disappointed in this price range. Major supermarkets group their wines by Portugal’s wine producing regions, simplifying your selection process.
Unfortunately a very limited selection of Portuguese wines are available outside of Portugal compared to other wine producing nations. This is truly a sad reality BUT results in a nice surprise for any visitor to Portugal. I receive endless feedback from holiday clients on how delighted they were with the Portuguese wines. It’s certainly is a good enough reason to return to Portugal!!
So if you enjoy wine, I encourage and recommend including a Winery Excursion in your holiday plans. Get in touch with nature and create your own winery experience for a brief Day-Getaway from the beautiful beaches and castles. Closer to Lagos, the Algarve region has a multitude of wineries and their vineyards nicely decorate the countryside. If you are short on time, these may be a nice alternative.
Our Alentejo Winery Excursion: Armed with our close friends, one of whom is a sommelier student we drove off towards the Alentejo province, just north east of Lagos. Fortunately we had invested time to research and select 2 wineries to visit, Adega do Mouchão and Quinta do Zambujeiro. Both were on the well signed Alentejo Wine Route "Rota dos Vinhos do Alentejo". This proved to be just the right amount. We contacted them in advance to make an appointment and so they were expecting our visit and were kind enough to offer us their time.
One winery used old world techniques while the other made the most of more modern technology. We were rewarded with an experience of a lifetime. In both instances, we received a personal tour from the wine makers who were brimming with pride to share their knowledge about their terroir, their grapes, their own unique wine production process and their differentiators. At one winery we were invited to a barrel tasting with the winemaker. Only in Portugal will you experience such kindness, pride and devotion. We left overwhelmed by this incredible experience and armed with a case of “Fine Alentejo Red Wine”.
Our drive through the rolling Alentejo hills, exposed us to some tranquil countryside dotted with rows of vineyards, a multitude of olive groves, majestic cork trees all this amongst shocks of spring colour as the poppies were in full bloom. The lavender bushes lining the quintas (estates) along our wine route, provided a nice contrast in colour. Each sleepy little town in our path revealed some unique quality. We were even entertained by a pack of Porco Preto (black pigs), a real delicacy in Portugal as the meat is delightfully tasty. Look for “Secretos de Porco Preto” on the menu at your next dinner out. The laughs began when I stopped to photograph these plump black pigs and so I happily started calling out to them when somehow they changed off and fled madly from me limiting my photo opps. Our mid-afternoon surprise came from a group of about 15 elderly gentlemen sitting in rocking chairs on a porch of a community centre by the roadside making some healthy sized Zsssss as they took their afternoon nap as a close knit group.
Personal Thoughts from our Sommelier Student: A special day in the Alentejo wine trail at two wineries. Half the fun of getting to this tiny gem of a place was meeting the people and seeing the way folks in this area actually lived. Once we arrived at the Zambujeiro winery, the Manager (Nuno) and Wine Maker (Luis) were the warmest of hosts and took great pride in showing off their facility. We were treated to barrel tastings of each "cépage" created ultimately for a robust full red wine blend and an intimate look at a modern gleaming wine making facility. In planning a trip to the wineries in spring time (making an appointment is required), we were fortunate to have the winemaker spend time explaining grape varietals, wine making process, barrel selection and so on. We got the best winery visit ever! It is rare to get the full attention of the winemaker, rarer still to see their passion for what they do - even those among us who did not have an interest in wine, caught the delight of the winemaker even if for a short moment!
We will remember this winery visit as being heads and shoulders above the rest because of the individual attention we received, it was like being welcomed into someone's home and the lovely Portuguese are most welcoming and generous hosts!
We returned home in time to enjoy, yes “a fine glass of Alentejo red wine” on our balcony facing the sea as we pondered our dinner options.
Tips & Resources to get you started: Get familiar before you go for a more rewarding experience!
1) Plan your winery excursion; be selective – 2-3 wineries is plenty.
2) Contact the winery ahead of time to book and appointment and to get directions. Also be ready to stop in little towns for directions along the way. Many wineries are small and cannot handle walk-in visitors.
Do not expect the typical commercial wine tasting experience.
3) Be prepared for some bumpy winding roads as this adventure takes you back in time.
4) Wine Regions of Portugal - In Brief
The Wine Doctor AND The Wineanorak's Guide
5) Alentejo - Our favourite Wine Region -
6) Portugal's Grape Escape: Alentejo Varietals
When: Opened year-round; call ahead to make an appointment; avoid harvest season; may be closed during holidays.
From Lagos, drive east on the A22 4-lane motorway; look for the Blue signs A2
Lisboa; the exit ramp takes you right, up a high ramp and then left over the A22
highway as you begin heading north towards Lisboa; stay on the A2 for approx two
hours towards Lisboa until you reach a split; take the A6 East on the right side
of the split to Évora; (do not take the left side A12 to Lisboa); drive approx 40 km; take Exit 5 / N114; drive approx 10 km towards Évora; you will start to see vineyards and signs for the Alentejo region and the start of the Alentejo wine route. from here follow the directions provided by the winery you are visiting.
Driving time from Lagos: 2 hrs.
Parking is plentiful around the wineries.
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