Portugal is one of the most innovative wine countries in Europe. The charming Alentejo region is a fast emerging wine region that is known for its vast cork oak forests, rolling landscapes, not to mention its bold wines.
The USA TODAY had this to say about Alentejo:
#1 - Alentejo, Portugal
"When most people think of Portugal, they immediately think of Douro," says Kerry, "but head a little further south to Alentejo and you won’t be disappointed. Boutique wineries, full service hotels, great restaurants and of course terrific wines (mostly known for hardy red wines) make for a great wine travel experience."
An ancient tradition:
For more than 2,000 years, before the time of the Romans, the Portuguese have celebrated the fall harvest. In protected valleys, where microclimates have nurtured grapes, the fall is a time to reap the benefit of months of hard work. From the plains of the Alentejo, to the Valleys of the Dão and Douro, the harvest is a unique event that only now visitors can take part in, and in high style and local color enjoy this ancient rite.
Experience the excitement and history of winemaking, and participate in numerous activities and celebrations throughout the 20 distinct wine regions of Portugal. Lose yourself in the stunning landscapes of the wine-making regions: from the charming, verdant Minho where the vinho verde grapes grow on trellises, to the terraces of the Douro, the oldest demarcated region in the world and home of the famous port wine.
Centro de Portugal region, the wine routes do not run through the countryside, but through towns. Each is brimming with history. Venture further south and the routes near the capital have a close connection to water. Along the River Tejo, the Ribatejo Route travels through fertile fields irrigated when the river bursts its banks.
Harvesting a Celebration:
Many of Portugal’s centuries-old estates have now opened their own inns to welcome travelers, especially during the fall harvest, when the world is invited to share the traditions, tastes and colors of this ancient industry with modern overtones. Visitors can enjoy overnight stays or just simply tour the vineyards and take part in grape crushing or tasting dinners while enjoying the sweeping views over the river valleys and fields of Portugal’s wine country.
When the month of September comes around, all over the north of Portugal you will find people celebrating the ritual of the wine harvest, a tradition that is an important part of the identity of the northern folk, especially in the regions of Douro and Minho.
Synonymous in people’s minds with times of festivity, but also one of hard work, the grape harvest has become a spectacle attracting more and more visitors each year: all along the slopes of the valley, men can be seen walking through the vineyards carrying baskets of grapes on their backs, whilst the women sing popular songs linked to this festive period.
Portugal has the oldest appellation system in the world, the Douro Valley. This region, Vinho Verde, Alentejo and the Dãos region, in the Northwest produce some of the world's most unique wines. Portugal has two wine producing regions protected by UNESCO as World Heritage: the Douro Valley Wine Region and the Pico Island Wine Region in the Azores.
What makes Portugal special is the variety of native varietals, producing a wide variety of wines with distinctive personalities. The Oxford Companion to Wine describes the country as having "a treasure trove of indigenous grape varieties." This may be attributed to 8% of Portugal dedicated to vineyards.
For more information, visit www.winesofportugal.info
Why is this Portugal’s time to shine? And why the Alentejo?
The winemaking in the Alentejo is closely tied to the region’s development and can be traced back to the Roman occupation.
The country has steadily invested in its winemaking industry for the past 20 years by adding modern equipment, careful cultivation and improving on techniques. Wine experts say that Portugal is now making the best wines in its long history.
In recent decades, the Alentejo's winemakers have ushered in many modern advancements, earning critical acclaim for its full-bodied, fruity reds and light, oaky whites. On the border of Spain, this arid region is a rural place of rolling plains covered with large agricultural estates, and dotted with whitewashed homes and cork trees. The Alentejo climate of hot summers and cool winters helps create flavorful grapes that transfer into characteristically ripe and complex wines.
The Portuguese often refer to the Alentejo Region in the southern third of the country as its own nation because it retains its own dialect, has a strong Moorish flavor, boasts a unique musical tradition and has towns full of white-washed buildings not seen commonly elsewhere. An hour’s drive from Lisbon, this region accounts for one third of the mainland--extending from the southern bank of the Tejo River to the mountains of the Algarve region just to the south.
The Alentejo is a mystical place of gliding plains, sudden mountains and the largest cork forests in the world. The Alentejo’s Cork Country is a lightly populated region with open horizons, where the rhythm of life follows the rhythm of regional songs. It’s known in some circles as “the breadbasket of Portugal.” One-story farmsteads dot the hillsides, while its cork forests have supplied cork to the world for centuries.
Things to do in Harvest Time:
And for those who don't like working... why not consider spa treatments dedicated to the wine