The World Tourism Organisation’s decision to host its fifth UNWTO Global Conference on Wine Tourism in Portugal in September will help shine the enotourism spotlight on lesser-known wine production regions such as the Algarve.
According to Tourism Algarve, the region is “coming of age” after often having been overshadowed by northern Portuguese fine wines in the past. “The quality of Algarve wines has improved in recent years with a steady increase in producers using new methodologies, and the wines are now winning international awards.”
The Algarve’s progress in this respect will – together with the rest of Portugal – gain valuable international exposure during the conference, to be held on 9 and 10 September in Reguengos de Monsaraz in the Alentejo region (along the Algarve’s northern border).
Held under the theme “Wine Tourism – a driver for rural development”, the main conference focus will be on wine tourism’s contribution to social and economic regional integration and its potential to generate development opportunities in rural destinations.
In the meantime, Tourism Algarve has been promoting a series of new experiences for wine lovers, including:
- Learning to blend your own distinctive bottle of wine
- Tastings at historic scenic estates
- Enjoying a selection of fine wines in traditional restaurants with extensive wine cellars
- Owning your own vineyard.
Algarve wines are made from traditional Portuguese white and red grapes, which are now being combined with international varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. One red grape, the “Negra Mole”, is indigenous to the Algarve.
The following experiences have been designed to help visitors learn more about the Algarve’s popular wines, and even become wine-makers themselves…
The Art of Making Wine
Located not far from Lagoa, the Quinta dos Vales wine estate brings together wine and art. Visitors are able to explore grounds filled with eye-catching sculptures while tasting a selection of premium wines. They can also book a three-hour introduction to winemaking in the Bottle Blending Workshop (from £53 per person), or become “genuine winemakers” by signing up for The Winemaker Experience, which offers several levels of involvement.
The Barrel Blending Experience (from £4,737) enables wine-lovers to produce their own 225-litre barrel of wine, with samples of existing unblended Quinta dos Vales top wines; while the Rent a Vineyard (price starting at £4,737 per year) is an opportunity “to get a taste of winemaking, without a long-term commitment” – a one-year lease on one of the estate’s established vineyard plots, for a single harvest, to produce a vintage with the resulting grapes.
The most exclusive option is to buy a plot in the vineyard. “This step turns winemaking into an exclusive hobby or, who knows, into a new lifestyle… Participants can make their own wine without the risk of starting a business from scratch, and at a fraction of the price.”
One vineyard that has made a significant contribution to the Algarve’s burgeoning reputation as a wine producer is Quinta do Barranco Longo, which uses technologies combined with innovative winemaking methods to blend national and international grape varieties with its own. In 2022, the vineyard plans to open a new state-of-the-art building that will include a wine tasting room suspended above the wine cellar and a roof-top restaurant.
For a more historic experience, the family-owned Morgado do Quintão vineyard estate (founded in 1810 by the Count of Silves) offers visitors an intimate tour and premium wine tasting that explores the estate’s venerable past and unique terroir. You can also savour a selection of local artisan cheeses and charcuterie as well as other Algarvian delicacies prepared by their in-house cook – under a 2,000 year-old tree overlooking old Negramole vines.
Other wine estates offering vineyard tours and wine tastings include Quinta da Tor, Paxa Wines-Quinta do Outeira and Herdade Barranco do Vale.
Dining with Wine
Located in Paderne, near Albufeira, the Veneza restaurant combines Algarvian barrocal dishes with an extensive wine cellar. Typical dishes include crab au naturel served with boiled prawns and pan-fried pork loin medallions with garlic.
Don Sebastião restaurant in Lagos has a large underground wine cellar and offers traditional Portuguese cuisine. Main courses include pork chops with figs, shellfish rice, shrimp cooked with savoury spices and grilled fresh fish. The cellar includes an extensive collection of wines from throughout Portugal, as well as vintage Port and Madeira wines and historic bottles from the owner’s private collection.
Housed in a former winery dating from the beginning of the 20th century, the Odeceixe Winery Museum in Aljezur provides visitors with fascinating insights into the wine production process and classic implements used over the years.
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