Alentejo Wine region:
Ox in Southern Portugal

Alentejo is very much like Tuscany. Except the roads are lined with cork oak trees, not cypresses.

And the price tag is much more approachable.

Oak tree and vines in AlentejoCork tree and vines in Alentejo
  • picturesque hilltop towns
  • olive tree groves
  • rolling hills with vines
  • gorgeous beaches
  • ancient monuments left by long-gone civilisations

It’s all here. In spades and shovels.

Urban garden in Evora Alentejo
Oranges in Evora

Incredibly kind and soulful locals. Alentejo does hospitality on the same level with Cubans and Siberians.

Driving in Alentejo is a dream - roads are smooth like butter and mostly empty.

And everyone speaks English - even at remote gas stations and village markets.

In short - Alentejo is a perfect wine destination!

And yet - somehow - Alentejo is still a secret. 

On one hand - good for us. We get to enjoy the unspoilt charm of it for a little longer. But on the other hand - Alentejo truly deserves the hype.

Alentejo's iconic red roofs
Red roofs in EvoraAlentejo's iconic red roofs

Alentejo wine region - best kept secret

Before venturing into “the unknown” I asked around for the Alentejo winery recommendations. I asked some serious wine experts. Silence was the answer.

Alentejo is like the land beyond the wall. Everybody heard about it but nobody ventured out.

I kept hitting a brick wall every time I searched for natural wine producers to visit.

I knew they were out there. But they were hiding from me like French resistance from the gestapo.

And then my sister stepped in. 

Through her fashion connections she quickly linked up with a Portuguese food influencer.

Meet Ines.

Ines posts in Portuguese. We’re not sure what she’s saying. But her pictures speak volumes.

Via her instagram posts we discovered a bunch of incredible food places that carry authentic Portuguese wines.

And from there Ariadne’s thread unravelled.

Famous blue tiles in Estremoz
Fountain cafe in Estremoz

We uncovered a vibrant natural wine scene and an inspiring food landscape.

Everywhere we went - we wined and dined like royalty - at a fraction of what we would pay in Toronto or in Tuscany.

Let's talk about climate in Alentejo

We arrived in Alenetejo in October. A strong, persistent rain chased us from Lisbon all the way to Evora.

Is that what Alentejo is like - moist, gloomy and melancholic?

We were about to burn our bathing suits when we found out that this was the first rain since April!

Montemor-O-NovoCastelo de Montemor-O-Novo - one of the most important historic sites in Southern Portugal.
Montemor-O-Novo swingMontemor-O-Novo before the storm
Alentejo almendres cromlechAlmendres Cromlech in the rain

Contrary to our first impressions, Alentejo is a very dry, hot and sunny region. I had to drink hectolitres of water not to turn into a shrunken voodoo doll.

Winemakers told us about water challenges. In Ontario, surrounded by the Great Lakes - we never face the problem of water. Niagara and PEC are blessed. Sometimes too much. But Alentejo was a wake up call.

Vines or any other crops will not survive in Alentejo without irrigation. Simple as that.

Drip irrigation is the norm in the Alentejo wine region. Quality producers resort to it in extreme cases. But they cannot forgo it.

Wild boars love grapes more than you think

Apart from the weather, vine-growers in Southern Portugal face another challenge - wild boars. Wild boars love two things - acorns from the cork oak trees and grapes. Both happen to be in abundance in this part of Portugal.

Wild boars aren't the most gentle creatures. They don't just pick the grapes off the vines - they rip them off - often damaging the vines in the process.

The only natural predator capable of taking care of the wild boar problem - the wolf - had been hunted out of this area centuries ago.

That leaves the only other type of predator - vine-growers - to deal with the challenge. That’s why you often see wild boar meat offered at wineries in Alentejo.

Alentejo wines

The Alentejo climate dictates a certain style of wine - powerful and impactful. The kind of wine that makes you lose your sense on the second sip.

The best wines have elegance and freshness to soften out the impact. But the alcohol level is a constant reminder that this is the land of big and mighty.

Courtyard at the Vila de Frades wineryWinery in Vila de Frades

Just like with the rest of Portugal - Alentejo wines are mostly blends.

If you recognize the varieties that make up the blend - pass on it. The wines you want are made from indigenous varieties that I am not even gonna attempt to spell or pronounce.

Some of the most exciting wines in the region are Talha wines - made in clay amphorae, without temperature control or filtration. An old tradition that was almost lost. But now these wines are all the rage. And for good reasons!

Oven made from a clay jar at a winery in AlentejoAnother way of using a clay amphora

Portalegre in Northern Alentejo has been making waves with elegant wines with pronounced acidity - thanks to the nearby mountains. This is definitely a region to watch.

Alentejo also has a stunning coastal area. Think Sonoma coast and Bodega Bay. This wine region produces completely different wines - fresh, invigorating and perky. Some of my faves!

Wild oranges in Estremoz, AlentejoWild oranges in Estremoz, Alentejo. We were told they weren't edible. BS. They were super delicious.

We could have easily spent 3 weeks in Alentejo, or better yet 3 lifetimes.

When I returned to Canada, I couldn't stop looking at properties in Alentejo.

Chateau in France? Overrated

Villa in Tuscany? Pfff

Quinta in Alentejo! Oxes dream too.

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