Villa Oeiras – Something sweet and quite unique

Anyone who knows the Lisbon suburbs of the “linha” stretching along the mouth of the Tejo estuary and ending at Cascais will know the town of Carcavelos, with its wide beach and the borough of Oeiras to which the town, once part of Cascais council, belongs. But only those who know a little about the history of winemaking in Portugal know that Carcavelos is, in fact, the smallest demarcated wine region in the country, along with Porto, one of the oldest for fortified wines. Other demarcated regions for fortified wines are Madeira and Setúbal.

Wine has been produced for a very long time, since the 14th century, and today just a few farms still grow the Arinto, Galego Dourado and Ratinho grapes that are vinified at the palace of the Marquês of Pombal in Oeiras.

I have tried this wine a few times over the years, previously labelled Conde de Oeiras but recently rebranded by the producers (the town hall) as Vila Oeiras, apparently to avoid paying royalties to the current count!

Oeiras town council, according to Revista dos Vinhos, spent a few million euros restoring the winery and relaunching the brand. So, what do we get for €17.99 at Apolónia, for a 375cl bottle?

Well, euro for euro and given the size of the bottle, there are Tawny ports, Moscatel wines from Setúbal and aged Madeiras out there that can give it a run for its money, not to mention good sweet Oloroso Sherries from across the border. But that is really not the point.

This is a luscious and elegant fortified wine, aged for 10 years in both chestnut and oak barrels, an excellent match for cheese and fruit cake, but, more importantly, by buying a bottle of this wine, you are supporting the regeneration of a tiny wine producing region that may well have disappeared from the map.

By PATRICK STUART [email protected]