Many observers credit the Alentejo (translated as ‘Beyond the Tagus’) Region with leading the modern Portuguese wine revolution. The region is immense and covers nearly a third of the country, is sparsely populated, and is mostly given to cereal production. Coincidentally, the area was formerly noted for its exceptional cork production and remains so under its new role as an exceptional wine-producing region.
The area is located east southeast of the Capitol of Lisbon, is composed of generally flat plains, and contains one of Portugal’s most challenging climates. Temperature swings in this part of Central Portugal are the widest in the country and therefore present the greatest challenges to winemaking. The Alentejo Region produces two distinctive styles of wine, a traditional Alentejo (fermented in clay pots) as well as the modern, fruit-forward New World style that has become the backbone of the modern Alentejo Wine Region.
Most varietals are of Portuguese origin with the exception of the Rhône’s venerable Syrah that has made significant inroads within the region. Red wines are the renowned varietals of the Alentejo Region that are described as fruity, easy-drinking wines with soft tannins and a legion of new followers that began more than two decades ago. A small smattering of Cabernet Sauvignon can also be found in a number of blends within the confines of the Alentejo. Alicante Bouschet, Trincadeira, Aragones are other widely-planted varietals within the area.
Soils within the region are alluvial with generous outcroppings of limestone, schist and granite, perfect settings for the raising of quality vineyards.
The Alentejo Region has become a favorite of international wine lovers and has changed dramatically during the past two decades. New hotels, restaurants and touristy location now dot the countryside that artfully blends the old and new. Carts and black-clad women still occupy some of the roads to provide an incredible ambiance for the lucky wine traveler.