Algave Allure

When you think of the Algarve in Portugal what comes to mind? Stunning beaches, great resorts, world class golf courses, fantastic restaurants, lots of bars and cafes all of which are flooded with tourists in the summer. The wine industry does not immediately spring to mind. This is for good reason too. It is not that the conditions in the Algarve are not conducive to produce wine; it is quite the opposite. It is more that these very good conditions have been used to make simple, cheap wines for the tourist dollar. Sure there is a market for this sort of wine, not just in the Algarve, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, this practice has given the region a bit of a bad name when it comes to quality wine.

There are exceptions to the rule in the Algarve. One of these wineries is Quinta dos Vales. I visited them earlier in the year to see and taste for myself. I must admit, I was not sure what to expect. I was a little worried at the sight of brightly coloured artworks strewn across the property. After I had a look around the very well designed grounds and some of the vineyards, I began to realize they were set up for some serious wine production. All this could have been undone if the wines were not up to scratch.

I was guided through the tasting by Aderito , the horticultural engineer at the winery. Although his title may seem unusual for someone to be hosting a wine tasting, I can assure you he knew his stuff. His main role at the winery is maintaining the vines for optimal grape production. This is a hard, time consuming job at any winery, but at Quinta dos Vales there is one vineyard that is particularly temperamental. The Grace Vineyard regularly tests the winery’s patience. The intense workload for low yields seems like a thankless task. Maybe in many wineries now days it would have been dug up and replaced. Tasting the wine however (and a few times since) I can assure you the time and effort is well worth it.

The wine that interested me the most was the Grace Vineyard 2010 Branco. A white wine made from Arinto, Siria and Malvasia Fina. This wine I tasted as a tank sample and it still had some time to go before it would be bottled. Even so, it was very interesting – in a good way. It has mango, lychee and passion fruit aromas and on the taste it starts light and then becomes more robust with great acidity, a touch of oak and a long finish. It is better to have this wine with an equally robust meal – pork, strong fish or chicken dishes I think would be best. It is an excellent wine on its own, but when you compare it to most other white wines made in the region it is really outstanding.

Quinta dos Vales is located just outside the small town of Estombar. If you are in the Algarve this summer go and visit them and try their wines for youself.

By Chris Metcalfe

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