The Wine Connoisseur: The Alentejo wine region of Portugal
By Bob Lipinski
Alentejo is a grape-growing region south of the River Tagus and southeast of Lisbon in southern Portugal. This extensive region is not only famous for its wines but also plantations of cork oak trees. The most productive cork tree in the world is the Whistler Tree in Alentejo, producing corks since 1820. It is named for the countless songbirds that occupy its dense branches. This tree can supply material for 100,000 wine corks in a single harvest. As a comparison, the average cork oak tree produces material for 4,000 corks.
Alentejo has around 51,000-acres of vineyards producing red, white, rosé, sparkling and licoroso (sweet fortified) wines. Red grapes include Alfrocheiro, Alicante Bouchet, Aragonez (Tempranillo), Cabernet Sauvignon, Castelão, Syrah, Touriga Nacional, and Trincadeira. Red wine production exceeds that of white, and Trincadeira is the region’s most prominent grape. White grapes include Antão Vaz, Arinto (Pedernã), Fernão Pires (Maria Gomes), Manteúdo, Perrum, Rabo de Ovelha, Síria (Roupeiro), and Tamarez.
Portugal produces many cheeses, some from sheep’s, cow’s or even goat’s milk depending on where they are produced. Three popular cheeses (made from sheep’s milk) from Alentejo are Évora, Nisa, and Serpa.
Some recommended wines from Alentejo to enjoy with bites of these cheeses are:
2020 Casa Relvas Herdade de São Miguel Rosé: A blend of Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, and Syrah grapes. Salmon-colored with an aroma of fresh flowers, tropical fruit, and banana. Flavor of berries, honey, and citrus with a lingering aftertaste. Serve with Caesar salad and grilled chicken.
2019 Herdade do Rocim “Amphora” Tinto: A blend of Moreto, Tinta Grossa, Trincadeira, and Aragonez grapes. Black cherry-colored with a bouquet of berries- blackberry and raspberry. Medium-bodied with flavors of caramel, coffee, licorice, and plums. Pair with chicken cooked in a sweet fruit sauce.
2018 EA Red Blend “Cartuxa”: A blend of Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet, and Syrah grapes. Deep-colored with a bouquet brimming with spicy blueberries and chocolate. Flavors of red fruits, raisins, and dried black plums. Pleasant, slightly bitter aftertaste. Try with grilled vegetables and portobello mushrooms.
2018 Monsaraz Reserva: A blend of Alicante Bouschet, Trincadeira, and Touriga Nacional grapes. Garnet-colored with an aromatic bouquet of black cherry and raspberries. Full-bodied and dry with flavors of plums, blackberries, and black tea. A must for veal scaloppine sautéed in a mushroom sauce.
Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected].