Exploring the Abundance of Alentejo Vineyards and Wines – VinePair
With its distinct and diverse growing areas, hundreds of native grape varieties, each often known by a plethora of names, and an ancient vinous heritage, Portugal’s laid-back Alentejo region is a wine explorer’s paradise. Sunny, safe, surprisingly affordable, and accessible (a quick and easy 30-minute drive east of Lisbon), Alentejo offers the wine-savvy traveler authentic experiences far from the crowds. At around the same size as Massachusetts, Alentejo (pronounced ah-len-TAY-zhoo) has much to satisfy lovers of the arts, history, and the outdoors and, especially, food and wine. Everything is within easy driving distance, and rush hour is non-existent. There’s something for everyone in the Alentejo!
Portugal’s largest and least populous region is bounded by the Tejo River to the north (Alentejo means Beyond the Tejo), flowing east to west and on into the Atlantic at Lisbon. On its southern border lies the coastal Algarve. Blessed with over 3,000 hours of sunshine annually, similar to San Diego and well above Portugal’s national average, Alentejo routinely accounts for the highest summertime temperatures in all Europe. When it comes to wine, vineyard plantings at 56,500 acres are somewhat more than Napa’s 45,000 acres and about the same as Washington state.
Alentejo and its UNESCO World Heritage capital, the beautiful city of Évora, remain off-the-beaten-path and a connoisseur’s treasure. But in the context of wine, what sets Alentejo apart?
With a wine-growing tradition dating back over 2,000 years, it can confidently be said that the Portuguese know a thing or two about wine. So, the fact that Alentejo is a source of one in every three bottles of wine consumed in Portugal, speaks volumes.
Alentejo vineyards thrive in the most varied soils of any region in Portugal, from clay and limestone to quartz and schist, resulting in velvety, robust reds and mesmerizing whites. The Alentejo wine list is long on complex whites and singular, compelling reds, including crisp, elegant white Arinto and light-bodied red Castelão, as well as Trincadeira, with its intoxicating aromas of blackberries and florals, to name a few of the region’s more prominent native grapes. Alentejo also hosts international varieties, such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, plus Mediterranean classics like Carignan and Tempranillo (better known in Alentejo as “Aragonez.”) Boasting award-winning quality, Alentejo has received global acclaim for over-delivering at all price points, whether it’s a special-occasion bottle or a festive by-the-glass pour.
A LEGACY OF EXCELLENCE
Winemaking in Portugal dates to the Romans, and it is they who are credited with introducing the technique of maturing wine in amphorae, or large clay vessels called …….