Region to believe: Portalegre

Having been overlooked in the past, and its quality grapes used for blending, the arrival of the Symingtons has alerted the wine world to the potential of the Alentejo’s Portalegre sub-region. Sarah Ahmed investigates

In the early 1990s, a humble cooperative produced one of Alentejo’s highest priced wines. Adega Co-operativa de Portalegre’s multi-award winning red commanded the princely sum of €25. Though the co-operative is no more, Alentejo’s Portalegre sub-region is back in the spotlight, thanks to the savvy bunch of terroir hunters who pounced on its grapes.

What’s more, it looks set to stay there now Port royalty the Symingtons have bought a 43-hectare Portalegre vineyard – their first outside of the Douro.

The draw? The altitudinal, structure-building cooler climate and soils (granite, schist and quartz) of the Serra São Mamede mountain – “unique terroir,” observes Francisco Mateus (president of the Alentejo Wine Commission) with “big quality potential.”

Plus, pioneering artisans such as Rui Reguinga of Terrenus, João Afonso (Cabeças do Reguengo), Vitor Claro (Dominó), Susana Esteban and the Rosa Santos brothers (Explicit), were attracted by the tiny old field-blend vineyards scattered across Portalegre.

These factors differentiate this northernmost, small (860ha) sub-region – a DOC – from the rest of Alentejo (even the lower reaches of Portalegre district), whose hotter, drier conditions and mechanisation-friendly plains forged its modern era of export-driven smooth, fruity wines.

Drier and less fruit-focused than other Alentejo expressions, Portalegre DOC’s wines are distinctly gastronomic, especially quirkier field blends and fresh whites.

Take whip-cracker Reguinga’s Terrenus range (founded in 2004), for example; it comes from vineyards between 500 to 830 metres above sea level, the oldest more than a century old.

One Response to “Region to believe: Portalegre”

  1. Rowan Bosworth-Davies says:

    Our Friends, the Fino family have been making wonderful wines at their traditional winery, Monte da Penha in Portalegre, for many years. Francisco and his daughter, Rita, are brilliant examples of winemakers using traditional methods and grapes, makimg wines of great freshness and character, but with a inherent backbone of traditional viification methods.

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