Herdade de São Miguel
One of a host of small, new wineries forgoing Portugal's future in the international wine business
This relatively new estate was purchased more than 20 years ago by Alexandre Relvas, Sr., and consists of some 430 acres, of which more than 86 are planted in an assortment of Portuguese varietals. Another 240 acres are planted in cork trees that are used in the Portuguese wine industry. The soils are typically schist and granite and the varietals are mostly traditional Portuguese (Aragones, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional and Trincaciera) and well-suited for the differing Alentejo growing region.
The Herdade de São Miguel is located in the Redondo sub-region and features a new and modern winery that was built in 2003. The first reds from São Miguel followed the next year and were successful from their inception in winning numerous awards and accolades. Herdade de São Miguel is definitely a family affair, with fifth-generation sons Alexandre Relvas, Jr. acting as winery manger and winemaker and Antonio Relvas serving as marketing director.
Another interesting facet of the operation is the use of more than 400 Merino sheep to fertilize and weed the vineyards of which more than 20 percent are certified as organically-farmed. Other endangered animals, Mirandela donkeys and Garrano horses of Geres, are found at the estate to protect their survival.
Herdade de São Miguel is one of a host of small, new wineries forging Portugal’s future in the international wine business and we are proud to share some of their newest releases with our International Wine Club members!
Alexandre Relvas, Jr. - Winemaker
The son of Herdade de São Miguel founder Alexandre Relvas, Sr., Alexander Relvas, Jr. learned his winemaker trade in university studies in Bordeaux, France. While there, he also gained experience at one of Bordeaux’s leading châteaux. He is a proponent of a modernistic approach to his wines, but also maintains a traditionalistic viewpoint to classic Portuguese grape varietals.
Relvas, Jr. also enjoys the services of renowned Portuguese wine consultant Luis Duarte, one of the country’s leading enologists.
Situated almost directly east of Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon, the Alentejo/Redondo wine region is eerily similar to California. It encompasses low, rolling hills, even hot temperatures and a great deal of benign sun. This topography protects much of the area from the cooling effects of the Atlantic Ocean. The area occupies almost one third of the entire country and is sparsely populated. It extends eastward until it touches Spain’s western edge in the São Mamede mountain range. Its soils are composed of schist, pink marble, granite and limestone over a sub-layer of water retaining clay. Local history portrays the wines of Alentejo were the first Portuguese wines exported to Rome many centuries ago and some producers in the area still utilize the Roman method of producing wine in clay vessels.
A good number of small, modern wineries have sprung up in Alentejo in recent years (aided by an input of capital from the European Union) and the area is considered one of the most progressive in the entire country. It was also voted (in 2014) by readers of USA TODAY as the best wine region to visit in the entire world.
Redondo is a sub-region of Alentejo and is credited with many of the plaudits associated with the emergence of Portugal as a top red wine producer. Its popularity and acceptance internationally have made it Portugal’s most impressive new wave region for producing red wines.
Portugal: Fun Facts!
• Portugal has more than 250 indigenous grape varieties, which is more than any other country in the world.
• Winemaking in Portugal can be traced back as far as the 4th Century B.C.
• Portugal has had the same defined borders since 1139, making it the oldest nation-state in Europe.
• Portugal has a coastline that spans 497 miles and is considered one of the world’s top surf spots.
• Portugal’s most famous export is Port, a fortified wine made by adding brandy during fermentation, making it sweet and higher in alcohol than table wine (typically 18-20%).
• Port wine grapes are only grown on the steeply terraced hillsides of the Douro Valley near Porto, one of the world’s oldest established wine producing regions and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
• Portugal is the largest cork producer in the world, supplying 70% of the world’s cork exports.
• In 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed, which essentially gave Portugal the eastern half of the “New World,” including Brazil, Africa, and Asia. The Portuguese Empire was actually the first global empire in history, and it was also one of the longest-lived colonial powers, lasting for almost six centuries.
• Lisbon, Portugal is older than Rome, Italy, and among the oldest cities in Europe. Archaeological findings date back to 1200 BC, revealing Phoenecian populations in and around Portugal’s capital city.
• The Barcelos Rooster is considered to be the unofficial symbol of Portugal. The legend tells the story of a dead rooster’s miraculous intervention in proving the innocence of a man who had been falsely accused and sentenced to death. The rooster emblem can be found in every local gift shop, typically in a ceramic form, in vivid colors, and said to be the embodiment of the famous Portuguese love of life.
• The Portuguese eat more fish per capita than any other country in Europe.