I am excited to talk about Portuguese wines, specifically the wines from Alentejo. Portugal is high on everyone’s list to visit and it is a hot travel destination with incredible cuisine and world-class wines. Alentejo is a region where centuries-old traditions are merged with state-of-the-art technology to produce fantastic wines.
When in Alentejo it may seem like you are in the middle of nowhere, but it is only a 90-minute ride from Lisbon. It is a laid-back region that is rural and rustic with old-world charm. It is also a simple area, with a lot of history and traditions. A region with rolling hills and undulating plains that are dotted with olive trees, cork trees, vineyards and historic ruins. The history of the region is captured in small towns like Evora, which is listed as World Heritage by UNESCO. A monumental charm, Evora is a picturesque village that showcases the history, culture, cuisines, wines and spirit of the people.
6 REASONS TO DRINK ALENTEJO WINES NOW
The wines are what set Alentejo apart, producing unpretentious wines that are textured and voluptuous. The white wines are fresh and elegant while the reds are rich and bold. Alentejo boasts exceptional winemakers who blend history, tradition and modern techniques to create memorable wines. If that isn’t reason enough for you to be intrigued, then here are 6 more impressive reasons for you to drink Alentejo wines now.
1. AN ABUNDANT ARRAY OF NATIVE GRAPES VARIETIES
The Alentejo wine region is unique from the rest of the world. They have a wide variety of native grapes with ancient lineage that is only found in Alentejo. For a small country, they have an abundant range of indigenous grape varieties. Starting with reds, the most widely planted red grape varieties in Alentejo are Aragonês(which across the border in Spain is known as Tempranillo) and Alfrocheiro. The most celebrated red in Alentejo and its signature grape is the great Alicante Bouschet.
For whites, the workhorse grape is Antão Vaz, it is a grape unique to the region. Antão Vaz is a grape that does well in an environment of global warming. It is a grape that thrives in warm climates. With climate change at the forefront of the conversation nowadays, Antão Vaz is likely to get more global recognition. Arinto also does well in Alentejo and is known for its bright acidity.
Alentejo has unique grape varieties making them ideal wines to discover and learn different flavors, textures and experiences. These are interesting and intriguing varieties that you cannot find anywhere in the rest of the world.
2. CENTURIES-OLD HISTORY OF MAKING QUALITY BLENDS
In Portugal, Alentejo wines are the people’s choice. One in every three bottles of wine consumed in Portugal comes from Alentejo. Alentejo is a mysterious old region that somehow people relate to as the new frontier in wine when in reality it is one of the oldest in the world. Its wine-growing traditions date back to before the Romans, with over 2000 years of history. It is believed winemaking traditions were brought to the region by the ancient Tartessian civilization.
Blending grape varieties has historically been the norm in Alentejo, producing wines that are structured and balanced. The red blends are rich, warm and generous and are typically a blend of native varieties like Aragonês, Alfrocheiro and Trincadeira. The white blends are fresh and fruity and typically made up of local white grapes like Antão Vaz, Arinto, Verdelho and Roupeiro.
3. ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS REGION
Sustainability is another reason to love the wines from Alentejo. The first of its kind in Portugal, Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Program was formed in 2015. It put in place a formal but voluntary sustainability program for winegrowers. João Barroso, says that the award-winning program is focused on economic viability within a social domain that is focused on environmental protection. Alentejo’s sustainability program supports improvements in environmental and social sectors, as well as the economic performance of Alentejo’s wine industry. Sustainability lies at the core of the project. The project is flexible and adaptive, and they have learned to cater to the needs of its members. Members share best practices, benchmarks, self-evaluation, and accountability with third-party certification. The program starts with empowerment to encourage members to participate. Now, who doesn’t want to drink more wines from a region that focuses on sustainability?
4. UNBROKEN TRADITIONS OF AMPHORA(TAHLA) WINES
Making wine in an amphora is an ancient technique. Today amphora wines are all the rage and are making a powerful comeback. Alentejo has the longest, continuous tradition of making amphora wines. They never stopped producing this style of wine which was first brought to the region in Roman times and has continued ever since. They are leaders in this tradition and are reviving amphora wines in the Western world. Locally in Alentejo, amphora wines are called tahla wines.
In Portugal, the Alentejo region has long been the guardian of tahla wines. Here, the techniques developed by the Romans for making wine in the clay amphoras called tahlas have been safeguarded. The tahla winemaking process has been handed down from generation to generation throughout history, almost without change.
5. ALENTEJO IS A LAND OF CORK FORESTS
Cork trees are more than just trees, they are a part of Alentejo’s diverse ecosystems. The cork oak (Quercus Suber), is native to Alentejo and is one of the most common tree species in Portugal. Alentejo is naturally abundant with cork forests and a variety of wildlife. The mighty cork tree is an impressive site. Cork covers the outside and is stripped away every ten years, leaving behind a beautiful red trunk for regrowth. These enchanting cork forests turn Alentejo into a magical place of sun and shadows that remind you of the harmony that has always existed between man and nature.
6. ALENTEJO WINES REPRESENT GREAT VALUE
Alentejo wines represent exceptional value. Even at the top end of Portuguese wines that are the most expensive, Alentejo still offers great value. Across the spectrum, Alentejo wines represent outstanding value and offer exceptionally high quality-to-price ratios. The wines are offered at a fraction of the price of wines from other regions, making them very friendly on the wallet.
Alentejo wines are sustainably produced, have great flavor and are incredibly food friendly. These are not wines that are overworked or overoaked. The wines give you an emotional connection, each sip gives you a reason to visit the region and explore. The wines are gratifying, comforting and delicious, they leave you with a sheer pleasure factor, imparting a sense of place and history in every bottle.
**Images Courtesy of Wines Of Alentejo**