Alentejo is becoming famous for its wines and rightly so. The North of Portugal, specifically the Douro region, has a long history in wine production. Alentejo is catching up quickly both in terms of quantity and quality. Wine is Alentejo’s biggest export accounting for nearly 40% of their exports to a wide variety of countries, including Australia, China, Angola and the Americas.
Most of Alentejo’s wine production is centred in the area of Vidigueira to the east of the region in the hot centre of the country although some producers are now expanding to the coastal area where we currently live.
The local vineyard produces my favourite white from this winery — a floral Sauvignon Blanc — a perfect accompaniment to seafood and fish.
Further up the coast in the Setubal area is one of the more interesting vineyards where Pinheiro da Cruz wine is made by the inmates of the local prison. They have an excellent reputation and produce award winning wines for which there is a high demand and a higher than usual price due to the limited amount of land available for production.
Another of my favourites from this area is Joao Pires White — a softer floral fruity white — a little on the sweet side though so if you like your white wine dry, this is not for you.
Vidigueira has a huge cooperative that produces a wide range of wines both red and white from table wines right up to speciality reserves. Portugal uses the cooperative system far more than the UK and it works really well for the smaller local producers who can share in the investment in machinery and overheads.
There are a number of vineyards in the Vidigueira region from the older smaller family units to the ultra-modern facilities at Cortes de Cima or Herdade do Rosim.
We visited Herdade do Rosim last year for a tour and a tasting. They have worked as hard to lessen the impact of their facilities on the environment as they have on developing their wines.
If you fancy a long weekend discovering Alentejo wines and the beautiful countryside in the region there are a number of coordinated wine tours available where you can travel from one vineyard to another to meet the owners, learn how wine is made, watch production and of course taste the results. The “official” Alentejo wine tour can be found here.
Other vineyards are happy to show visitors around — it is best to make an appointment for these.