THE ALENTEJO WINE,
ONE OF THE GREAT TREASURES OF THE REGION
The Alentejo wine is one of the highest values of the Alentejo and has an ancient history in the region. No one knows for sure when its cultivation was first introduced, but it was with the arrival of the Romans that it became part of the local communities’ routine. Wine, both red and white, the different varieties, with their particular flavours and aromas, the vines, the vineyards and wineries, the routes and the visits, all of these offer opportunities to enter this wonderful world. Come and discover it.
VINE, A MILLENARIAN PRACTICE IN THE ALENTEJO
The vine has a millenarian and uninterrupted presence in the Alentejo, as proven by the many archaeological finds scattered throughout the region.
No one knows exactly when its cultivation was first introduced. It is thought that the Tartessos, an Iberian civilization descendant from the Andalusian megalithic culture, were the first and main drivers of the domestication of the vine and, later on, of the introduction of wine in the region.
The Phoenicians and the Greeks probably continued the practice, but its generalization is attributed to the Romans. Some of their practices still exist today, like the billhook and the large clay containers (talhas) used in the fermentation of the must or to store the wine. The technology and method of production of the talha wine and its millenarian process of vinification represent a highly unique cultural heritage, and the process of registration of the "Traditional Process of Production of the Talha Wine" in the Portuguese Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage and its subsequent application to Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity are underway.
With the Muslim invasion and the Islamization of the Iberian Peninsula, the religious restrictions on consumption - especially in the 12th and 13th centuries - will have forced a great reduction in the cultivation of vine; in many territories, it may have disappeared completely and the growing of the vine did not regain significance until the foundation of the Lusitanian kingdom (wine, curiously also for religious reasons, was essential in the Christian liturgy).
THE ALENTEJO WINE OF TODAY
The Alentejo is one of the largest wine regions in Portugal. With considerable investment in recent years in this sector, Alentejo wines are increasingly claiming a place among the best in the country and achieving international acknowledgement.
The existing soil and climatic conditions allowed the production of native grape varieties that gave the wine a regional specificity, but such conditions are equally adequate to other varieties, which quality reflects their good adjustment.
In the Alentejo there are eight DOC - Denominação de Origem Controlada (protected designation of origin) - sub-regions, but the most significant ones are, in the white grape varieties, Roupeiro, Antão Vaz and Arinto and, in the red varieties, Trincadeira, Aragonez, Castelão and Alicante Bouschet. The wines produced in the municipality of Serpa are part of the Alentejo wine region, sub-region of Moura.
But wine production in the Alentejo goes beyond the DOC and there are many producers who produce excellent regional wine with other grape varieties, such as Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Chardonnay.
Quality and diversity are two words that go hand in hand with the Alentejo wine, be it younger or more mature.
THE VINEYARDS IN THE LANDSCAPE
Wine can also be enjoyed in other ways, particularly through the landscape it creates. The Alentejo fields are an incredible patchwork of cultivated fields, where the vineyard is clearly present, together with the montados, the crop fields, the olive groves and the fallows. In this mosaic, the colours and textures vary throughout the year, following the rhythm of the cultures and the shades of the seasons.
So it is also with the vine: during the spring it surprises us with its intense greens that, throughout the summer, slowly turn into yellow, golden and ochre shades that peak at the time of the harvest.
The municipality of Serpa reproduces this mosaic of productions - where the vineyard also has a prominent place - in an exemplary way, especially in its most eastern area, the parish of Pias.
In this municipality, like in the rest of the Alentejo, the process of improvement and enhancement of wine production began in the final decades of the twentieth century, and the parish of Pias is a reference in this paradigm shift, with a prominent role in the regional context.
Currently, the wine produced in the municipality of Serpa is marketed in all continents, acting as a veritable ambassador for this territory. The municipality’s wineries are equipped with advanced technology, associated with research and innovation projects and some already apply the concept of circular economy; some excellent sparkling wines, grape brandy and rosé wines, including talha wine, are also produced in the area.
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Some of the producers promote visits that allow wine lovers to taste the wine, listen to the stories related to its production and learn about the most important phases of winemaking, namely by watching and taking part in the harvesting.
TASTING THE WINE WHILE IN SERPA
The wine is the partner of choice for the tasting of other products of excellence made in Serpa, such as the PDO Serpa Cheese, the cured dry sausages and the bread, among other traditional table partners, that have in this municipality excellent representatives. Come and try them.
© Estúdio Lemonnier