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The Alentejo wine region comprises the entire strip below the Tejo river up to the Algarve hills, almost a third of the country. A region of boundless plains, without any large topographic features, only the S. Mamede mountain range (1025 m), the Serra d'Ossa (650 m) and the Portel mountain range (421 m) stand out.
The climate is hot and dry with continental characteristics and Mediterranean influence.
The amount of annual sunlight is around 2000 h/year, which favours the maturation of the grapes and the accumulation of sugars and colouring matter in the skin of the grapes. The soils are very varied mixes of clay, limestone, granite and schist.
The region is divided into 8 subregions:
The Alentejo wine region is predominantly made up of Portuguese grape varieties, but there also foreign ones. There is a great diversity of grape varieties planted in the region. The most common white varieties are Roupeiro, Arinto, Antão Vaz, Rabo-de-Ovelha and Perrum. Regarding red grape varieties in Alentejo wine production, the most common are Aragonez, Trincadeira, Castelão and Alicante-Bouschet.
Because of the topographic characteristics of the region and the large agricultural structures, the main crops in the Alentejo have always been cereals and cork oak groves, despite the enormous potential for growing vines on poor soils.
In former times, wine had less importance, and it was fermented in large amphorae for local consumption, a tradition inherited from the Romans.
Amphora wine is part of the region's identity, it is a differentiating factor, and in recent years it has assumed a prominent position among the region's products, thus asserting itself as a cultural landmark. Traditionally, red amphora wine is made from crushed and de-stemmed grapes through a process of spontaneous fermentation. During the fermentation process, the pulp is crushed manually twice a day with a traditional wooden utensil.
The Alicante Bouschet variety, although not Portuguese, is part of the Alentejo region's identity. This variety is thought to have been first planted in the Alentejo between 1870-1890. Its main particularity is that it is a grape variety that gives a lot of colour to wines, ideal for blends with Aragonez.
Another particularity is that this grape variety is a hybrid from Montpellier, from a cross between Petit Bouschet and Grenache. Alicante Bouschet has been so well suited to the region for so long that it is now considered the most Portuguese of the foreign grape varieties.
Historically, the Alentejo's most important wines were named after streams in the vicinity of where the vines were established, on the outskirts of the towns. The geographical and agricultural dispersal and organisation worked in a particular way.
The cities were established next to important rivers or streams. The immediate area around the cities was used for the daily products such as vegetable gardens. The vines and olive groves were established in the outer rim and the remaining land, further away and more extensive, was used for cereal production and cork oak plantations.
The red wines of the Alentejo are full-bodied, plump, easy to drink, rich in colour and aroma, and sometimes also rich in tannins. As a result of the region's hot climate, the grapes, when picked at the ideal moment, can impart freshness to Alentejo red wines.
Alentejo white wines are aromatic, not very acidic and sometimes straw-yellow in colour. In areas with a greater influence from the Atlantic, the wines are fresher, tauter and with a more noted mineral content.
The amphora wines from the Alentejo, full of character and identity, are nowadays a highly sought-after product. Winemaking in amphorae promotes a natural micro-oxygenation of the wine, making it very drinkable early on, which is favourable for red wines. Traditionally, the amphorae are opened on St. Martin’s day, 11th November.
White amphora wines are a modern adaptation and may be the result of fermentation with or without skin contact. In white amphora wines, certain notes of a clay or of the amphora’s coating can be identified, which is very distinctive of these wines.
Today, Alentejo wines are also national flagship wines, which carry Portugal's name around the world. It is therefore easy to find them both nationally and abroad, both in restaurants and in wine stores. But you don't have to go that far to find and enjoy the wines from the Alentejo. Visit our online shop and choose from our amphora whites, Touriga Nacional reds or the old vineyards of the Vale do Cepo.