This month I'm presenting the first tribute to one of Portuguese passions – its Wine. I invite anyone to discover the Portuguese wine routes that will take you in to the heart of the country where simplicity and native traditions produce one of Portugal most demanded products. This will be the first of a series of articles about Portuguese Wine Regions, Wines and Cellars that I will share with you as an invitation to discover a country that welcome everyone with such joy and enthusiasm that many decide to stay for life.
But before we approach our first Wine Region, I would like to make a short introduction.
Portugal has a strong wine heritage that goes back to a period prior to its foundation, and has been recognized as a world class quality producer by many wine lovers. Our wines taste refreshingly different from any other wines due to its unique grape varieties that taste as different from Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and the rest as Cox’s Orange Pippin apples do from Golden Delicious. Portugal also grows French grapes producing indeed very good wines, but these country scores of native varieties give Portuguese wines excitement and personalities you will find nowhere else on earth.
Most Portuguese wines are blends of different grapes. But a few grapes are stars: Grapes such as Alvarinho, Arinto, Fernão Pires and Loureiro among whites, and Alfrocheiro, Castelão, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira among reds are worth tucking away in an easily accessible corner of your mind.
More important to remember are the names of Portugal’s wine regions. Vinho Verde is for light, aromatic whites. The Douro makes lean, mineral whites and rich, structured reds (as well as ports). Bairrada is famous for long-lived, tannic reds (and roast suckling pig!).
Dão is near-mountain territory, both whites and reds elegant and refreshing. The coastal Estremadura (Lisbon and Silver Coast region) gives stylish whites and reds. Tejo wines are easy and approachable. Terras do Sado and Palmela reds are light and balanced. Alentejo reds are warm and generous.
Tejo Vine and Wine Route
The Ribatejo province is known for its fertile plains and gentle climate, heavily influenced by the majestic River Tagus that crosses the region on is way to the Atlantic. Vines are evident throughout the three distinct areas of the region; the lush riverbank fields (lezíria), the limestone area north of the river (bairro) and the arid, sandy soils south of the river (charneca). The plains are studded with bulls and horses, reared for bullfighting, a cultural sport that dominates the region. It is also rich in flora and fauna, bringing life and colour to the Tagus Estuary Nature Reserve.
A long history has left deep impressions on the region, where countless treasures of gothic art reach their pinnacle in the city of Santarem. The monumental 12th century seat of the Knights’ Templar at Tomar should also not be missed, with its heavy Manueline influence in the church. The tiny town of Constância, built on the confluence of the Zêzere and Tagus rivers, is another charming place to explore.
But we can not write about these wines region without speaking with the leading parties that have been producing this nectar for more than a century. Without any compromise what so ever with any of the famous Wine Farms we have chosen 2 Ribatejo wine estates that best represent the region – Quinta da Fonte Bela and Quinta do Falcão. I have meet the owners on their secluded shelter in Sintra, a beautiful XVIII century house overlooking Sintra natural park and Ocean further ahead, an elected second home for them and a place where they recharge for the challenges of running a wine business.
Joaquim Pedro Monteiro and Maria Inês are a charming couple that speak about the family business with passion and enthusiasm of who lives the day-to-day business creating and innovating new ways to succeed on the production of the finest brand in the region.
Acknowledging that they have the infrastructure and know-how to produce a top quality product that bring justice to the cultural and costumes legacy of Ribatejo province, old vineyards are constantly substituted by new ones reinforcing the quality and production.
I couldn’t come with empty hands, they wouldn’t allow me, and I have to thank the generous gift that will certainly complement my table at New Year’s dinner. My favourite and recommendation goes to Quinta da Fonte Bela – Rosé (VRR*), a fine rosé cherry colour, clear and bright, with an intense aroma of red fruit, high-end structure and exuberant and Quinta do Falcão – Reserve (DOC*) – red wine with an intense ruby colour, concentrated aromas with notes of jam and wood, high complexity with a long finish with soft fragrance.
The atmosphere in this area is absolutely charming; I came across farmers preparing the land and vineyards for new crops, a wild live of birds on Tagus borders, horses and black bulls on the pastures, Manor houses representing the culture heritage of its inhabitants.
There are hundreds of retailers currently stocking Portuguese wine in the UK. Please visit ViniPortugal.co.uk to find you a bottle, a retailer, an importer or a producer. To order directly any of the recommended wines or to know more about the region and real estate opportunities within please contact me directly