Located in the south area of Portugal, Alentejo is considered one of the biggest and well-known Portuguese regions due to it’s rich, fruity and easy drinking wines, produced under a very hot and dry climate with wide sun exposure throughout the year. Naturally, the most pleasant time to visit Alentejo is April or May, when the atmosphere is still green and aromatic, just before the intense heat of the summer months.
The region is made of extensive plains with mountains only in the northeast, where the countryside becomes greener and the air cooler. Soils are low on fertility, made of granite, pink marble, schist and limestone, which provide the conditions to obtain an enduring and resistant vine.
Landscapes mingle with the vines and cereal crops; an ever-changing canvas of colour from intense green towards the end of winter to the deep ochre tones during the final months of summer.
The eight sub-regions that compose the Denomination of Origin can be divided into three main groups. i) Borba, Évora, Redondo and Reguengos that produce smooth, harmonious, very easy-drinking wines. ii) Portalegre, where the vines are planted on granite slopes of the São Mamede mountain range with its own fresh microclimate. iii) Vidigueira, Granja-Amareleja and Moura that are impacted by a significantly hotter climate and poor, limestone-based soils.
In a region where red wine is king, the main grape varieties used are Roupeiro, Arinto, Trincadeira, Castelão, Aragonez, Antão Vaz and Alicante Bouschet. Besides the DOC sub-regions, Alentejo also has many regional wines that can incorporate grape varieties beyond those predicted in the strict DOC wines legislation, such as Chardonnay, Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Alentejo main varieties:
Red grapes: Aragonez, Alfrocheiro, Castelão, Trincadeira and Alicante Bouschet.
White grapes: Antão Vaz, Arinto, Fernão Pires, Perrum and Roupeiro
© Picture: Herdade do Penedo Gordo, Borba
by Francisco Sobral, Wine Curator