TA STE M E DI T E R R A N E A N W I N E S F ROM A L E N T E JO
P O R T U G A L
The domestic wines preferred by most Portuguese themselves are grown in the Alentejo.
Mighty cork oak trees punctuate the Alentejo’s endless vistas.
P O R T U G A L‘ S SUPERSTAR
ortugal is renowned for its authentic indigenous cuisine and its multifaceted wines – not to mention being a preferred holiday destination for many visitors. But how many people know the Alentejo? This is the region where the favourite wines of the Portuguese themselves are grown. It is an endlessly wide open, easy landscape of rolling hills where ochre-coloured grain fields and lush green vineyards spread themselves out in turn over the countryside. In between them stand knottyolive trees and mighty cork oaks like natural monuments, which offer comforting and comfortable shade, protecting visitors from the hot southern sun.
As a wine-region, the Alentejo is both substantial and important; with some 22,000 hectares that are planted with vineyards, it makes up 9% of the total area under vines in Portugal. And in terms of volume, some 17% of Portugal’s wine comes from here, 80% of it red wine and 20% white. Virtually one out of every two bottles of wine consumed in Portugal is produced in the Alentejo, where the wines are known for their intensity of fruit and rich texture. The region’s sunny and warm climate with its cool nights and dry winds works to encourage a style of viticulture that is very near to nature, producing wholesome and approachable wines. And in the Alentjo there are quite a number of substantially distinctive climate-zones.
MORE THAN 3000 YEARS OF WINE HISTORY
ike the region itself, the wines of the Alentejo have a long and rich history. The first vineyards were laid out during the period of the Tartessians – a civilisation that flourished in remote antiquity on the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula, some nine centuries BC – and the first techniques of organised viticulture were introduced. Later on, the region came under the influence of the Greeks, who brought with them their double-handled clay vessels called amphoras, use in the production of wine. The most significant developments to viticulture in the Alentejo came with the ancient Romans, who improved the techniques and methods used in both grape-growing and vinification, in addition to introducing the first ‘noble’ grape varieties to Portugal and to the Alentejo.
THE FIRST ALENTEJO DOC (DENOMINAÇÃO DE ORIGEM PROTEGIDA – PROTECTED DENOMINATION OF ORIGIN) WERE ESTABLISHED IN 1988.
IN 1989, THE CVRA (COMISSÃO VITIVINÍCOLA REGIONAL ALENTEJANA) FOLLOWED, WHICH CERTIFIES ALL PDO AND PGI WINES PRODUCED IN THE ALENTEJO.
IN 1997, PROVA (THE PROJETO DE VITICULTURA DO ALENTEJO) WAS FOUNDED, AIMING TO ESTABLISH A SYSTEM OF QUALITY CONTROLS.
THEN IN 1983, ATEVA (THE ASSOCIAÇAO TÉCNICA DOS VITICULTORES DO ALENTEJO) CAME INTO BEING, WITH THE GOAL OF PROMOTING VITICULTURE WITHIN THE ALENTEJO’S VARIOUS SUB-REGIONS.
The occupation of the Iberian Peninsula by the Moors at the beginning of the 8th century AD led to the disappearance of the local wine culture. It was not until the reconquista – the reconquering – in the 15th century that winemaking came once more to life, and the 16th century developed into a golden age for wine in the Alentejo. And then following further high points and lows spread over the centuries, viticulture in the Alentejo made significant progress during the régime of António de Oliveira Salazar.
We still find traces of their civilisation here today, more than two thousand years later; for example the maturing of wines in talhas de barro. This method of vinification is still in use in the Alentejo – these vessels can contain up to two thousand litres of wine and stand nearly two metres tall.
TRADITIONAL AND INNOVATIVE WAYS COMPLEMENT ONE OTHER PERFECTLY IN THE ALENTEJO.
Wines from the Alentejo, maturating in oak casks.
A few rivers traverse the gently rolling hills of the Alentejo.
THE ALENTEJO, WHERE THE GR APE NAMES ARE REAL TONGUE TWISTERS...
he diversity one encounters in the vineyards of the Alentejo is practicably indescribable: there are more than 260 grape varieties cultivated here, and the great majority of these are indigenous vines. A few examples of the regional varieties, perhaps? The most important white wine grape varieties are Ant達o Vaz, Arinto, Roupeiro and Fern達o Pires, while the most significant red grapes of the Alentejo are Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet, Castel達o, Alfrocheiro and Touriga Nacional.
GR A P E VA
Vineyards and wheat fields arrange themselves into a patchwork pattern.
Each breed of vine has its own distinctive and characteristic foliage, its grapes of particular size and shape. The flavour and style of a wine are quite dependent upon the grape varieties used, and the regionâ€˜s wide range of indigenous vines imparts an unmistakable character to the wines of the Alentejo. And additionally in recent years, the cultivation of highly respected international varieties has been introduced and developed.
OR IGI N There are two seals that distinguish the geographic designation or indication of origin for wines from the Alentejo: • Denominação de Origem Protegida (DOP) or Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC), in English Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). In Portugal the new pan-European designation DOP is used parallel to the older designation DOC. Wines with protected designations of origin may only be grown within eight viticultural districts (Borba, Évora, Granja-Amareleja, Moura, Portalegre, Redondo, Reguengos and Vidigueira). Additionally there are regulations in place regarding maximum yield per hectare and grape varieties permitted, as well as a prescribed sensory evaluation of every wine.
Water is essential to survival for all of the Alentejo’s plant and animal life.
• Indicação Geogràfica Protegida (IGP), in English Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). All of Portugal is divided into a total of fourteen ‘regional wine’ districts. Formerly designated as ‘Vinho Regional’, the new pan-European designation serves to indicate a protected geographic origin. Here as well, both designations may be used in parallel. The established guidelines and regulations for production of regional wines are less strict than those governing the DOP/ DOC wines. However, many Portuguese wines of distinguished reputation become classified as ‘regional’ wines because the producer has chosen to use grape varieties that are not permitted for DOP/DOC wines. The relaxed regulations governing PGI wines allow more possibilities for the expression of individuality, although there are certain regulations that prevail governing the choice of grape variety and minimum alcohol content.
The Alentejo is one of the worldâ€™s most important producers of cork.
EVERY WINE HAS AN ORIGIN: DOC AND PGI
ALL SOURCES OF WATER, WHETHER L ARGE RESERVOIRS OR SMALL PONDS, CONTRIBUTE TO THE PRESERVATION OF BIODIVERSITY IN THE ALENTEJO.
he distinctive and relatively flat Alentejo landscape, and the fact that there are very few real physical barriers to prevent condensation of the humidity coming in from the sea, means that the Atlantic influence on the regions is not significant. However, the few surrounding hill and mountain ranges that do exist are of great importance, as they have an effect on the diverse growing conditions and characterise the different sub-regions of the Alentejo.
Portoalegre Borba Ă‰vora Redondo Reguengos Vidigueira Granja-Amareleja Moura
THERE IS SOMETHING PROFOUNDLY INVIGOR ATING AND LIBER ATING ABOUT THE ALENTEJO LANDSCAPE: ITS ENDLESSLY OPEN COUNTRYSIDE, GENTLY UNDULATING PLAINS, WIDE BLUE SKIES AND DISTANT HORIZONS. THE LANDSCAPE MINGLES WITH THE VINES AND CEREAL CROPS - AN EVER-CHANGING CANVAS OF COLOUR: INTENSELY GREEN TOWARDS THE END OF WINTER, THE COLOUR OF STR AW AT THE END OF SPRING, AND DEEP OCHRE DURING THE FINAL MONTHS OF SUMMER.
BIODI V E R S BIODIVERSITY, SUSTAINABILITY, AND ENVIRONMENTAL GOOD PR ACTICE FORM AND INTEGR AL PART OF WINE PRODUCTION IN THE ALENTEJO.
he sunny and warm Mediterranean climate of the Alentejo just naturally encourages sustainable wine production: the nights are cool and the winds are dry, the sunshine could not be more lovely, and it hardly ever rains. The region is favoured with more than 3000 annual hours of sunshine – a figure that is even greater than the Portuguese average (which is already the highest in Europe). No wonder, then, that the clusters ripen so well in this sunny and warm climate, and require very little intervention or help on the part of the grower. A wide-ranging flora and fauna flourish in the vineyards, which contribute to preserving the valuable ecosystem of the Alentejo for further generations as well.
This all adds up to providing the optimum conditions for eco-friendly and sustainable winegrowing. The form of viticulture most often encountered here is ‘integrated production’ (IP). The goal of this system is wherever possible to avoid any encroachments upon the agri-ecosystem and the environment, and thus maintain the highest conceivable quality, with a sufficient yield at harvest. A combination of crop-protection treatments that is easy on organic life is therefore only used when necessary to maintain the health of the vines. More and more estates in Alentejo also find themselves on the way toward organic certification, at which point they will be able to label their wines with reference to this sustainable and environmentally friendly mode of production.
ere in Portugalâ€™s largest wineproducing region there has evolved a multiplicity of indigenous grape varieties, which are perfect for the prevalent soil and climate conditions. They grow in the Alentejo alongside international varieties â€“ on slate, granite and quartzite, producing multifaceted wines of great character.
An abundance of uncultivated areas provide shelter for larger mammals, such as wild boar and deer.
The unpolluted waterways and lakes have contributed to an abundant and stable otter community in the Alentejo.
355 SUBREGIONS ESTATES
ARE TO BE FOUND IN THE DOC ALENTEJO: BORBA, ÉVORA, GRANJA-AMARELEJA, MOURA PORTALEGRE, REDONDO, REGUENGOS AND VIDIGUEIRA.
ARE PRODUCING WINE IN THE ALENTEJO.
FA C T S &
ALL ALENTEJO WINES HAVE SOME CHAR ACTERISTICS IN COMMON: THEY ARE FULLBODIED, WELL ROUNDED AND INCREDIBLY AROMATIC.
5,500 HECTARES: KG
THE TOTAL AREA UNDER VINES IN THE ALENTEJO, WHICH HAS GROWN SIGNIFICANTLY IN THE PAST 25 YEARS.
IS THE AVERAGE AMOUNT OF GRAPES HARVESTED PER HECTARE IN THE ALENTEJO.
F IGU R ES
Id-No. 1548068 www.druckmedien.at
CAMPAIGN FINANCED WITH THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE EUROPEAN UNION AND PORTUGAL
More Information: Comissão Vitivinícola Regional Alentejana: www.vinhosdoalentejo.pt