Vineyards, of course. And Quinta dos Vales, which means the Farm of the Valleys, certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Located on gently undulating hills are vineyards of more than 180,000sqm where grape varieties unique to Portugal flourish, such as Touriga Nacional, along with international varieties which have adjusted to the unique climate and soil of the region.
Numerous grape varieties, which include Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Aragonez and Viognier, are the basis for current production of the internationally popular white, rosé and red wines. The estate’s wines have to be a personal experience and a discovery difficult to describe in the written word. The plethora of medals and awards in the first few years of Quinta dos Vales’ production holds great promise for the future. It speaks for itself, that the prestige nomination as “Best Wine of the Algarve” has been granted to Quinta dos Vales during the last eleven years eight times regionally and nationally.
Few people are perhaps aware of the deep historical roots of Quinta dos Vales. The estate is steeped in history, harbouring many tangible reminders of bygone days. One of the most intriguing is a 40-metre deep ancient well accessible by a staircase hand-carved by our ancestors through solid soil and stone. The 80 steps lead down to a water level which, according to local legend, was discovered by the Moors. In the old machine room are pumps built at the beginning of the last century; before that time, the water had to be pumped manually which was tiring work under the Algarvean sun.
Nearby is another deep well which is the subject of many stories and legends. Estombar dates back to an era long before the Moorish occupation, and in the 11th century was the home of the famous Arab poet Ibn Ammar. It is said that from this well, along with other places in Estombar, deep subterranean tunnels run up to 12km long to the ancient Moorish capital of Silves.
The modern winery behind the old walls of the winery lives up to the visitor’s expectations. After the hand-picking and selection of the grapes, the wine is made with the latest machinery, using the natural force of gravity to gently press the grapes, which are then fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks and, after repeated quality controls, stored in French oak barrels.
On the way to the vineyards and wine tasting, visitors are greeted by a large number of sculptures in different materials, sizes and styles: abstract stone sculptures, a giant tortoise, three-metre high kissing hippos, painted bears, mosaic-covered elephants and bulls or big ballerinas, the Graces. There is something to please everybody, and the winery owner, the creator of the most intriguing sculpture park in the Algarve, is always ready to conjure new surprises.
The guesthouses, created on the concept of oenotourism, are a pleasant surprise. The design shows a strong contrast between the simple traditional exterior and a luxurious interior with full modern amenities, but still retaining the traditional farmhouse feel. Some of the farmhouses even kept their old water cistern, now converted into an inviting swimming pool area.
In addition to these traditional farmhouses, Quinta dos Vales recently introduced The Vines, a brand-new resort of holiday- homes, located in the heart of the renowned wine estate. In July 2021 the doors opened for the small resort with just 16 stand-alone houses, each comprising of 2 independent villa suites. The balance of interior to exterior areas is ideally suited to the concept of vacation homes, as holiday- makers in the Algarve tend to spend the majority of their time outside. Each villa suite features one bedroom, a bathroom with walk-in shower, an open plan kitchen and living room, as well as a private terrace, adjacent to a cosy private relaxation area. For the very first time the estate offers private individuals the possibility to purchase property turnkey buy-to-let solution on its grounds, which can either be used as full-time residences or as holiday-homes with a rental return ,with the operational management delegated to the estate’s team. This combination allows wine-lovers to fully immerse themselves in the wine-maker lifestyle.
But for it to really become a unique proposition, owners are given the option to combine a holiday home with a small, privately-owned vineyard. The Winemaker Experience, a unique project that sees wine- lovers become wine-makers, each with their own vineyard plot, for a fraction of the investment normally needed to purchase a winery. Attracting clients all the way from the Swiss Alps to South Beach, Florida, the project, which can be managed remotely, allows wine-lovers to authentically be in control of their own production, without the stress and hassle of starting a commercial operation.
The allure of Quinta dos Vales’ ambience was recently summed up quite eloquently by a visitor: “The estate has experienced a magical change,” she said. “When walking through it you feel free as a bird, your mind can drift, the art and artists inspiring your thoughts. Wherever you go you find joyfulness, natural beauty and little oases of serenity which invite you to forget the pace of everyday life.”
Discreetly located so that holidaymakers or the busy wine-production plant is not disturbed is the centre where action takes place. Up to 300 visitors can be welcomed for a cultural evening, concerts or incentive meetings. Before the pandemic hit Portugal, nearly every month, the locals are entertained by another event which takes place in the quiet little village of Estombar. Now that we may see some light in the tunnel, the team of Quinta dos Vales has already its plans for 2022 in place. Watch out for news!
Not surprisingly, Quinta dos Vales has developed into a venue where people like to celebrate their parties and weddings, where schools have their annual trips, writers talk about and read their latest books, artists exhibit and musicians perform.
Quinta dos Vales is a place full of surprises, which offers a unique leisure and cultural experience based on the symbiosis of art and wine.
By Roger Greene
Contact: Karl Heinz Stock
Email: [email protected]
Organization: Quinta dos Vales – Agricultura e Turismo, Lda.Address: Sítio dos Vales, Caixa Postal 112, 8400-031 Estômbar, Lagoa (Algarve), Portugal