Algarve Wine Society visits Setúbal wine producing area

MEMBERS OF the Algarve Wine Society, led by Anthony Pattison, travelled by coach from Albufeira to the Setúbal wine producing area, south of Lisbon, recently. Their first visit was to the Casa Ermelinda Freitas winery, one of the star small producers in a region dominated by big bottlers and the Cooperativa Agrícola Santo Isidro de Pegões winery, en route to Setúbal.

Two nights were spent at Estalagem do Sado, which, according to the Michelin Guide, is the best hotel in Setúbal. The first night’s dinner was in the hotel’s roof restaurant with its spectacular views over the harbour and the Sado river.

The following day, after visiting Palmela castle and the old town, the group was privileged to be shown around the Fortuna Arte Ceramics Centre by the famous artisan himself, Sebastião Fortuna, who demonstrated his handicraft of earthenware, decorative tiles and stonework. This was followed by a lunch at Taverna Choco Frio in Aldeia Grande, washed down with copious wine, a splendid blend of Periquita and Cabernet Sauvignon, supplied by the local butcher who owns Quinta da Califórnia.

A visit was then made to the famous Bacalhoa winery, one of the leading producers in Portugal, located in the noble wine region of Azeitão, in the heart of the Setúbal peninsula. The main winery, with its modern and attractive architecture and technology, has become one of the best equipped production units in the country. A special tasting of six of their wines was arranged, including their well-known flagship, Quinta da Bacalhoa 2002, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

On the last day, a visit was made to Quinta de Calhariz in Sesimbra, where the group was shown the various processes of manufacturing Queijo de Azeitão and Queijo de Ovelha Curado, the wonderful cheese made from sheep’s milk.

Our final winery visit was to José Maria da Fonseca, the oldest and one of the most prestigious wineries in Portugal, where we tasted several of their table wines and their renowned Moscatel de Setúbal, blended using vintages of between 20 and 40-years-old. Members were left in no doubt that the Moscatel de Setúbal can compete with any of the Muscat wines produced around the world, and that the Castelão grape variety, known locally as Periquita, can produce a lively and fresh everyday table wine.

On July 2, the Algarve Wine Society’s annual summer party will be held at the Alto Golf Club in Alvor. For more information, call Larry Hampton on 289 843 811 or e-mail [email protected]