Jan 31: Alentejo might have been rated as the backward wine producing region decades ago but it has made significant strides in the last 30 years with an ever-increasing share of the Portuguese production and establishing enviable position in the export market due to the bigger and better sized wineries coming up using modern technology and equipment, writes our Mumbai Correspondent Sheetal Kadam who visited the region and Adega Mayor in Portalegre District
Alentejo has had a very turbulent history which alternated between periods of calm and storm. The phylloxera epidemic, two world wars, successive economic crises and a campaign to cultivate wheat and other cereal crops in the place of vines contributed to the decline of Alentejo wines, making Alentejo Portugal’s “bread basket”. In 1940’s Junta Nacional do Vinho was formed where Alentejo viticulture took its first step to recovery. With the establishment of PROVA - Projecto de Viticultura do Alentejo in 1977, the system of quality control was put to place. In 1989 first Alentejo DOC - Protected Designation of Origin was regulated.
The quest for hidden treasures of Alentejo wines, I catapulted myself into this perked up yet upraised wine region beyond the river Tejo to the inland of South of Portugal. Passing by the grasslands and white washed houses I checked-in the Adega Mayor winery. This esteemed winery is located on the Campo Maior soil in the Portalegre district close to the Spanish border.
Here strong vineyard, olive, cork and oak trees tradition, the deep-seated ambition of Commander Rui Nabeiro was panned out, to establish an iconic winery in Alentejo producing superlative wines.
A spectacular architectural designing of the winery is done by the famous architect Siza Vieira. The bird’s eye view of the winery depicts the image of a man, with a lawn and lake headed by sculpted marble panel. Also, the eye- catching rectangular structure of the winery mimics the rippling waves of oceans.Carlos Rodrigues, the chief wine-maker and I had a walkthrough the winery followed by the wine tastings in the tasting room on the panoramic terrace providing a view over the estate’s vineyard and the olive grove, extending further to Spain and the Serra de Portalegre.
I must mention the stunning Alentejo wines I was offered to taste.
CAIADO TINTO- This wine is almost reddish in colour, fresh red fruit, strawberries and cherries with balanced acidity and alchohol. Delicate tannins. Grapes contributed are Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alfrocheiro.
CAIADO BRANCO –This wine appears to be clear lemon yellow. Minerality on the mouth is felt, with its freshness and harmony; the long finish is full of vigour. A versatile wine with a strong personality. Made up of Antao Vaz, Arinto, Roupeiro grape varieties.
CAIADO ROSE-Strong pink, almost reddish. Fresh red fruit, strawberries and cherries. The flavour confirms the nose hints sweetness and intensity.
RESERVA TINTO- Good amount of forest aromas fruit cocoa, olives and vegetal notes, low on acidity. Grapes used for the wine making are Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional.
RESERVA BRANCO-Ripe tropical fruits aroma, subtle minerality can be easily distinguished from the wines.
TOURIGA NACIONAL, VERDELHO, VIOGNIER, PINOT NOIR, PINOT GRIS are popular grape varieties of Alentejo.
As a wine-producing country, one of Portugal’s great strengths is its diversity in indigenous grape varieties.
mountains, the higher rainfall and temperatures especially at night, along with many old vines, gives complexity and freshness to wines. Soils vary- dynamically schist, pink marble, granite, limestone with sub- layer of water-retaining clay with temperate climate contribute to the unique character of its wines.
Alentejo has Mediterranean characteristics, blessed by the continental influences from the surrounding ocean facilitates cultivation on the poorest soils of the region.
Alentejo, in recent years has become an important source of big, ripe, fruity, easy-drinking reds. I am sure the key players like Adega Mayor and many others in the Alentejo wine region have gained enough competitive advantage to brand the wines in international markets. Alentejo wines have not become very popular in India yet but hopefully, their day will come soon when lebeling laws are relaxed a little.
For earlier related Articles please visit,
Ervideira: Ageing Wine underwater in Alentejo in Portugal
Wines and Wineries of Alentejo
Wines and Wineries of Alentejo- Part III
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