Herdade Paço do Conde
Perfecting the balance and blend of traditional viticulture with modern winemaking
The estate that compromises the Herdade Paço do Conde (Count’s Palace Estate) is comprised of around 370 acres of vineyards and a much larger 2,700 acres of olive trees. It is one of the largest in the entire region that is generally populated by large winery interests.
The estate has a rich history and tradition dating back to the 14th Century. Much of the property is situated between the remnants of an old Roman castle located near the Guadiana River and the vestiges of the ancient Roman City of Vilares. The Castelo Branco Family has owned the land for more than three hundred years. In 1928, the grandparents of today’s managing partners planted a number of crops that continue in existence to this day. Included are corn, wheat, poppy, sunflowers and orchids that complement the massive olive orchards.
Two brothers, Jose and Luis Branco and a sister, Maria Branco, are partners in the highly successful agri-venture. They head a company called the Paço do Conde Group that oversees all agricultural enterprises for their family.
In 1995, vineyards were first planted and included twelve varietals and are all equipped with state-of-the-art drip-watering and modern equipment. All grapes are picked at night to assure maximum maturation control. The picking is almost exclusively mechanical, not so unusual in Southern Portugal.
Total wine production for the group is well over a million cases, of which almost 70% is exported. The Herdade Paço do Conde brand is considered to be the flagship operation of the Paço do Conde Group and it will increase its production with the addition of more international markets.
A modern, glass enclosed tasting room accompanies the winery operation, a must see for any visitors to the booming Alentejo region of Portugal.
Portuguese Winemaking History
The fact that Portugal was named best wine region to visit by USA TODAY in 2014 came as no surprise to wine industry insiders. When you add the actuality that Portuguese wines have consistently placed extremely high among the world’s top wines for the past decade, you get the idea that the Portuguese are doing something right.
Long a haven for dessert wines (Portuguese ports have been revered by practically everyone for the past two hundred years), modern Portuguese wineries have cropped up ever since Portugal joined the European Union in January of 1986 and international funding became available to the country’s mostly rural economy. Formerly bucolic areas suddenly became accessible and smart investors (generally Portuguese) jumped at the opportunity.
No industry benefited more than the enduring Portuguese Wine Industry. Smaller growers and wine producers received huge subsidies and grants that vastly improved winemaking facilities and vineyards. Small boutiques (quintas) revolutionized Portuguese winemaking and succeeded in establishing Portugal as an international market for more than port, Madeira and Mateus.
Wine growing regions suddenly sprung up in areas that had seldom seen vineyards and wineries, mostly state-of-the-art thanks to the huge influx of EU monies. Roads were widened and accompanying hotels and restaurants (as well as visitor facilities) became as fine as any in the country.
Obscure regions such as this month’s featured Alentejo Region benefited due to its closeness to Portugal’s main visitor stream in the Capitol of Lisbon. In no time the Alentejo was considered the equal to Portugal’s dominant Porto and Duero Regions.
Plaudits should also be given to Portugal’s youthful cadre of winemakers. By adopting the popular new world style so successful in other countries, the vintners suppressed the old feelings of many wine aficionados that considered Portugal’s reds and whites as musty and old fashioned. They also embraced the philosophy of adding proven varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah to name a few) to their country’s assortment of native varietals and were smart enough to select beneficial climates and soils for their plantings.
The Portugal wine experience of today offers a gigantic choice of venues, styles and differential characteristics. Some insiders say there is a Portuguese wine that is made to fit any and all tastes.
A final aspect of Portugal’s ascendency in world circles is the marvelous price/value relationship most of its wines offer the consumer. Whether it is found in a shop or restaurant, Portuguese wine will generally outperform its pricier cousins, sometimes in huge proportions.
The Flag of Portugal
The flag of Portugal was adopted on June 30, 1911 and is filled with historical significance. The green stripe represents hope, while the red stripe represents the bloodshed during the Portuguese Revolution of 1910. Centered on the flag is the Coat of Arms, which includes a white shield with five smaller blue shields, each with five white dots. The blue shields symbolize the first king’s victory over five Moorish kings and the divine assistance he received to do so is shown by the five white dots (representing the five wounds of Christ). The red border with seven castles symbolize the castles conquered during the Reconquista. Behind the shield is an armillary sphere, which was a navigational instrument - it represents Portugal’s importance during the Age of Discovery.
Rui Reguinga - Winemaker
At 49, Rui Reguinga is considered among the very top in the winemaking profession in Portugal and arguably, the entire world. Vinhos magazine named him Best Winemaker in 2009 and his tributes have continued unabated since that time. A graduate of the Lisbon Institute of Agronomy, Reguinga also boasts several post-graduate degrees.
A disciple of Portuguese winemaker icon Joao Portugal Ramos, the third generation (of his family) winemaker founded his own company in 2000 and became an international consultant in addition to his nationalistic winemaking positions. He currently consults in Argentina, Brazil and Sri Lanka and has been dubbed “the flying winemaker” by the Portuguese press.
He is a fervent believer that “in the right terroir any grape variety can produce excellent wines.” Also, “old and good vines fascinate me; they are the true classic waiting for contemporary interpretation.”