Wine, food and fun in the Alentejo

Thirty-one members of the Algarve Wine Society recently returned from an interesting trip to the nearby Litoral Alentejo. This is an area of the Western Alentejo, starting near Santiago do Cacém and extending up to the Sado Estuary.

With Grândola as its capital, it has a diverse landscape, vast sandy areas of pine woodland, beautiful rivers, massive paddy fields and unbelievable beaches.

The group stayed in the strategically placed Pousada Dom Afonso II in Alcácer do Sal and, in the three days, visited six wineries, the rice museum in Comporta and dined in five different regional restaurants.

The wineries , Herdade do Cebolal, Monte da Serenada, Pinheiro da Cruz, Herdade da Comporta, Herdade do Porto Carro and Adega dos Nascedios are all part of the newly formed ‘Wine Producers from Costa Alentejana’ initiative.

One unusual winery was the adega of Pinheiro da Cruz, where all the vines are tended by the prisoners. It had taken two years of persistence for the group to get permission from the Governor to make this visit and the staff made everyone most welcome.

One highly successful tourism winery had dedicated 4.3 hectares to vines, another, the Banco Espírito Santo-owned Herdade da Comporta, extended to a massive 55 hectares. Many of the smaller, privately-owned farms had been inherited and in the same family for up to six generations, and were now being revived, often by Lisbon-based families.

It was evident that there was a whole new generation of young enthusiastic wine makers and oenologists, some even having dual careers.

Enthusiasm and dedication were obvious wherever the group went, whether it be to a winery or restaurant, and it was a welcome break from the prevailing negativity.

Everyone was buoyant, optimistic and proud of their heritage and produce.

Of particular note also was the assistance offered by the tourism board of the region. Both the vice presidente Carlos Silva and his assistant Raquel Zeferino were generous with their local knowledge and gave invaluable practical support.