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Harvest time at Herdade dos Grous

There is no better time than now and over the next few weeks to visit a winery. And, in fact, you do not have to go far with so many high quality wine producers operating right here in the Algarve these days.

Harvest runs from late August into mid September and it’s the only time of year when we can actually watch the wine being produced.

From picking in the fields to the selection and pressing process of the grapes in the winery followed by fermentation, there’s a heady aroma in the air and a buzz of activity that makes sampling the wines all the more rewarding.

Last weekend we visited Herdade dos Grous in the lower Alentejo, just an hour or so drive from the Algarve located south of Beja. This is a great weekend break destination.

Owned and operated by the same company behind Vila Vita Parc, there are comfortable and well appointed guest rooms (€120 per night including breakfast), an excellent restaurant serving traditional Alentejo cuisine, swimming pools and a large lake for boating, fishing and swimming. What’s more, this is a full-blown working farm with cattle, sheep and pigs producing high quality certified organic meat.

The wines produced at Herdade dos Grous are amongst the Alentejo’s best. I love their un-oaked Herdade dos Grous white, a wine with good structure and considerable complexity. But the star of the crop at Herdade dos Grous has to be the Moon Harvested label, made from 100% Alicante Bouschet.

I’m not usually a fan of varietals made from this grape. It’s the only grape that is actually red on the inside and it usually gives wines of enormous concentration that cling to the side of the glass with a deep red colour and sometimes almost blood-like structure, but here it has been treated with extreme care to produce a quite remarkable wine.

Photo: SUPPLIED
Photo: SUPPLIED

Herdade dos Grous, it is possible, even as a day visitor, to drive around the vineyard where we happened upon the main allotment of Alicante Bouschet grapes. These will be the last to be harvested in mid-September but tasting the grapes off the vine now leaves no doubt that they will make an outstanding wine.

As any good winemaker will testify, what goes on in the vineyard is even more important than the actual wine making process.

But in this case the wine making process is in itself a little special, taking into account the influence of the moon’s magnetism when picking the grapes. Just like it influences the tides, the moon also influences the movement of the sap inside the plants and the harvesting is done manually during the cycle when the moon has the most influence.

Workers pick alternate lines in the vineyard during the best and worst times within this window during the same day. The grapes are then vinified separately but using the same process, so that the two wines can be compared. Finally, the wine resulting from the grapes picked at the best time is put aside and bottled as Herdade dos Grous Moon Harvested.

Photo: SUPPLIED
Photo: SUPPLIED

Deep ruby in colour and with a complex bouquet of very ripe fruit and well-integrated oak, the wine is rich and round on the palate with mature silky tannins but above all an elegant finish that distinguishes it from any other Alicante Bouschet varietal I have tasted.

It’s a versatile wine from a food matching point of view that works just as well with a dish of roasted bacalhau as it does with a good steak. Both of which we enjoyed at the Herdade dos Grous restaurant where, incidentally, the wines of the estate are sold at extremely reasonable prices.

Moon Harvested red is, understandably, not a cheap wine at around €25 a bottle in supermarkets or at the estate’s own shop, but in the restaurant the price is just €27.

I always find that a wine tastes at its best when sampled amidst its own terroir and the experience of sampling the grape off the vine earlier the same day, visiting the winery, then enjoying a bottle with a good meal overlooking the vineyard is difficult to beat.