Our final stay was in the city of Evora in The Alentejo where we had chosen to stay on a campsite in a compact chalet with all the mod-cons.
Must-sees are the Roman buildings that still exist within Evora itself including the Roman Temple of Evora, believed to have been constructed around the first century in homage to Augustus. Outside of the city lies Villa of Sao Cucufate and the impressive Os Almendres prehistoric stone circle both worthy of a visit (www.visitportugal.com).
Alentejo is also home to most of Portugal’s cork production with said oak trees in abundance. Portugal is the biggest supplier of cork world wide and is renowned for its quality.
There is also a Wines of Portugal facility for wine tastings and wine tours www.vinhosdoalentejo.pt Pr. Joaquim Antonio de Aguiar 20-21 _7001-901. This is certainly a step-up from the one in Lisbon. There were bottles open on the reception counter for a free tasting and the room was also well utilised highlighting the grape varieties to be found in The Alentejo region, aroma cards and even glass cases displaying the various soil types found in the area. There was also free booklets in various languages that included information about producers (including contact details/visits/etc), the wines and the region itself.
After a busy day and settling into our chalet, we went for a swim in what was an extremely cold pool and then opened a bottle of: Palacio da Brejoeira Vinho Verde 2011 – Alvarinho: Notes of citrus and apple within a creamy body and good finish Quinta do Portal 2009 – 100% Touriga Nacional: Lots of red and dark fruits, blackberries, plums and orange ginger spice. Good structure
The final call of our trip was to the state of the art winery and vineyards of Ribafreixo, http://www.ribafreixo.com the next day. A phone call with Mario Pinheiro (owner and of South African origin) provided us with an appointment to meet his Portuguese business partner Nuno Bico, who would kindly show us around the estate and give us the opportunity to taste some of the wines.
The majority of the wines are from white grape varieties with the local Antao Vaz being its principle grape though there are many others including Roupeiro, Perrum, Rabo de Ovelha, Alicante Branco, Arinto and Alvarinho. The reds consist of, Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Alicante Bouschet and Tempranillo.
We met Nuno and his admin assistant, Nidia who took us on a tour of the estate. We got to see the new areas of land that have recently been given over to vineyard use as well as visiting areas of old vines, some over 35 years old.
There is a new state of the art winery and soon to open public visiting area, which includes a restaurant and events area. Here, we met Jorge (Cellar Hand and assistant to the wine maker Paulo Laureano), who was happy for us to try some of the wines straight from the tanks.
Alicante Bouschet 2012: Lots of fruits and lots of promise. We really liked this and hope to get to try the bottled version
Gaudio Classico 2012 – Touriga Nacional, Arragones, Tinta Miuda & Alicante Bouschet: Spicy fruits showing through Barrancoa 2012 – Trincadeira, Aragonez & Alicante Bouschet: We have had previous vintages and find this an enjoyable red with dark fruits and spice
From the bottle:
Connections Mario Pinheiro Limited Edition Chenin Blanc 2012: What is believed to be the first Chenin Blanc to be produced in Portugal with links to Mario’s South African heritage. This is the first release from young vines and whilst this was reflected in the wine, it was none the less still well made and should show its potential as the vines grow older. Even now, notes of crisp apple balanced by good acidity shone through with a hint of herbiness and minerality. A bottle was taken home with us
Gaudio Alvarinho 2012: Crisp and tangy with a grapefruit citrus edge and balanced acidity
Again, we came away feeling very well looked after and have made a commitment to return sometime in the not too distant future to see the new winery in full swing, as well as to enjoy the culinary delights that the restaurant will no doubt offer. We had now almost reached the conclusion to our trip as the following day entailed a drive back to The Algarve and to the airport at Faro.
Rather than take the recently built motorway, we decided to take the advice of Antonio (Family Macedo B&B) and take the route that borders Spain. Along the way are attractive walled fortified towns including Monsaraz, which has fantastic panoramic views and definitely somewhere we could have stayed longer. Check out the rather nice looking hotel that lies within its walls http://casapinto.es Finally reaching The Algarve, we took the opportunity for a very pleasant beach walk before heading for our flight back home. If you haven’t been to Portugal then do go, you won’t be disappointed especially about the friendliness of the people, their hospitality and of course, their great wines!