Silves wine steeped in history.jpg

Silves wine steeped in history

By ELOISE WALTON [email protected]

Tucked away in a secluded spot along the river Arade, just a stone’s throw away from the city of Silves, a new winery is producing fine reds and a quality rosé at the historical Quinta de Mata Mouros.

Despite the name, literally translated as ‘Quinta of killing Moors’, which conjures up all sorts of imaginings of historical slaughter and battles, the word ‘mata’ also means forest and the property was named because of a lush forest that grew there in the time of the Islamic people, between the 8th and 12th centuries.

There is even a legend associated with the property that tells the story of there being a secret tunnel between Silves castle and the quinta, which was used by a fortunate few Islamic people to escape during a siege by the Christian invaders in the 12th century. 

Portuguese engineer Nuno Magalhães shows off the vines at Quinta de Mata Mouros.
Portuguese engineer Nuno Magalhães shows off the vines at Quinta de Mata Mouros.

Throughout its centuries of history, including use as a convent, ownership by Domingos Vieira, a wealthy man who squandered his fortune on lavish banquettes, and several years in the hands of the Count of Silves, the quinta was purchased some years ago by one of Portugal’s most renowned businessman, Vasco Pereira Coutinho.

This latest owner has invested in planting part of the 180-hectare estate, which is noted for its fruit-bearing land, with good quality vines.

Taking care of this new venture is the young but experienced wine engineer Nuno Magalhães, who takes great care and pride in all aspects of the wine making process.

“The wine project at the quinta started in 2000, when 12 hectares of vines were planted,” said Nuno Magalhães. “The four varieties, known as castas, here at the quinta are Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon, Aragonês and Sousão.”

This last vine was chosen to give acidity and structure to the wines, as well as substituting the Trincadeira variety which did not thrive at the quinta.

These vines, planted in a naturally clay-limestone based soil and bedrock on high ground, are kept free from fungus and disease by the constant wind and are watered by a drip irrigation system.

Three wines are made at Quinta de Mata Mouros, Xelb, Ypsilon and Imprevisto.
Three wines are made at Quinta de Mata Mouros, Xelb, Ypsilon and Imprevisto.

“Vines thrive with stress, so we monitor their stress level constantly and alter the irrigation accordingly so that they concentrate on producing fruit instead of too many leaves,”said Nuno Magalhães.

During the annual harvest, the grapes are hand-picked from the vine to ensure that only quality fruit is used for wine production.

These are then pressed in the traditional method with bare feet in large stone vats.

Three wines are currently produced at Quinta de Mata Mouros, two reds, Ypsilon and Imprevisto, and a rosé, Xelb, after the ancient Islamic name for the city of Silves.

After pressing, the wines are then transferred to stainless steel vats before maturing in 300-litre oak barrels from France.

“These barrels cause less oxidation and are ideal for warmer climes,” said Nuno Magalhães.

Finally, the wine is bottled and stored in what was originally an olive press room with a hard stone floor. Naturally cool, the room keeps the wines at optimum temperature.

Upon tasting, each wine has a distinct flavour and a quality that will appeal to all palates. The reds, which should be served at an ideal room temperature of 18˚C, are well balanced with a strong ruby colour. They are ideal to accompany all manner of meat dishes, including game and stews.

 Xelb should be served between 9˚C and 11˚C and is the perfect accompaniment to fish, seafood, white meats and exotic dishes.

It is also an excellent aperitif and can be served prior to a meal with canapés. Its flavour is young and fresh with aromas of tropical fruits, cherries and fruits of the forest.

Although Quinta de Mata Mouros is new on the wine scene, it is already making a name for itself in the Algarve and can now be found in many restaurants and wine shops.

It is also beginning to make an entrance in the international market, with a wine shop owner from Germany having imported it for sale in his country.

“For the future, we plan to open a shop and visitors centre at the quinta. However, we already accept visitors and carry out a tour of the winery and vines as well as tastings,” said Nuno Magalhães.

For more information about the winery and to book a visit and wine tasting session, please contact Nuno Magalhães on 282 444 453 or email [email protected]