Talha wine - Amphora Wine of Portugal

Cheers from Vila de Frades in Southern Portugal

Vila de Frades is a cute village in the Alentejo wine region - with only a handful of wine producers.

Most of them aren’t big enough to have any kind of consequential presence in the wine world.

And yet, everywhere we went - from trendy Lisbon bars to country mom-and-pop shops - everybody talked about Vila de Frades and Talha wines.

Talha clay amphoraClay amphora in Vila de Frades - the beating heart of Talha wine production

Talha wines are traditionally made in large clay amphorae.

The wine-making technique hasn’t changed over the last two millennia. As they say - if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The wines are fermented with skins and a portion of stalks, with frequent punch downs to allow gas to escape so that the amphorae don’t burst under pressure.

Talks jar with cloth for iceRough cloth around the neck is where the ice is placed - for thermo-regulation.
Wine at the end of fermentation inside clay amphoraThis one's at the end of the fermentation. Most of the solids are already at the bottom.

After the fermentation is done, solid parts fall out and sink to the bottom.

That solid deposit is called “the mother”. How appropriate! The wine sometimes sits with its mother months on end. Finally, it is naturally filtered through the mother and never gets pressed, filtered or fined.

So simple and ingenious. As usual, with the best things in life.

Hole at the bottom of Talha jarThe hole through which wine trickles out - slowly, slowly - after it's been filtered by the mother.
Talha jar repaired with metal bracketsCracked clay amphorae are repaired with hot iron brackets.

Gerações da Talha winery in Vila de Frades

We visited one of the most prominent Talha wine producers in the area - Gerações da Talha.

This was a recommendation by Wild Thing - a natural wine bar in Tavira, Algarve.

Geracoes da Talha winery dates back to the 18th century.

And it looks the part - small, quaint and traditional. Vaulted ceilings, lots of clay jars, and not one piece of modern machinery in sight.

Talha jars inside a winery in PortugalInside Geracoes da Talha winery in Vila de Frades

But don’t let the historic set-up fool you. This is a working winery and the wines taste far from archaic. They are fresh and exciting.

We were treated to a wonderful lunch at Geracoes da Talha paired with their signature Farrapo wines. The simplest and most satisfying meal we had in Alentejo.

The best part of lunch was the desert - a fresh orange cut into pieces, dipped in raw honey and sprinkled with cinnamon. Absolutely heavenly.

Geracoes da Talha Farrapo winesGeracoes da Talha signature line-up of wines made in clay amphora - Farrapo
Geracoes da Talha - talha winesPortugal remains the top destination for affordable premium-quality wines

The production at Geracoes da Talha is small and the wines sell out fast. We were able to try the Farrapo line, but not the legendary Professor Arlindo wine, which sits for 4 months on the mother.

Farrapo wines surprised us with a combination of structure, freshness, strength and fruit character. A perfect balance.

Like one of those impossible stone structures that sit on a small base and look like they are about to collapse.

Geracoes da Talha - Farrapo Branco white wine

Although we didn’t get to meet the owner/wine-maker extraordinaire Teresa Caeiro, we were thoroughly entertained by her bubbly dog Cucka.

I watched Cucka pick up a raw lemon from under the lemon tree that grows in the winery’s courtyard. She ate it all - including the skin - without even flinching. That dog got balls! 

Geracoes da Talha - Cucka with lemon and grapesCucka and her lemon - she tortured it for a bit before she devoured it.

Like a perfect hostess, Cucka accompanied us everywhere - including the dining table, where she rested her upper body on the bench and patiently listened to our wine talk.

Geracoes da Talha - dog CuckaShe's a real lady - perfect manners!

Dad was in heaven because he got a taste of homemade grappa that reached 70% alcohol. That was the last time he asked for grappa at a winery. Be careful what you wish for. If they don’t mess around with the wine - they don’t mess around with grappa.

Geracoes da Talha inside the courtyardGeracoes da Talha inside the courtyard
Geracoes da Talha winery courtyard
Geracoes da Talha persimmon treePersimmon tree in the Geracoes da Talha courtyard

Amphora wine weekend

The community of Vila da Frades organises a winery crawl every autumn.

All of the local wineries open their doors and you have a chance to discover Talha wines and local food. It’s a truly immersive experience because the wineries are small and intimate.

This one is on my “to do before I die” list.

Geracoes da Talha oven made from talha jarThis Talha has had quite a life - from wine to dine

When in Vila de Frades, don’t forget to drop by Sao Cucufate - ruins of an ancient Roman agricultural estate and winery. A picturesque and serene place. It serves as a reminder of where Talha wines originated from.

Olive tree at Sao Cucufate ancient ruinsOlive tree at Sao Cucufate - this one must be close to 1000 years old.
Sao Cucufate landscapeSao Cucufate ruins and me

Gerações da Talha

R. de Lisboa 29A, 7960-432 Vila de Frades, Portugal

Villa romana de São Cucufate

Vila de Frades, Portugal

Wild Thing

R. Cap. Jorge Ribeiro 9, 8800-593 Tavira, Portugal