Fifty years ago it produced vast quantities of low-quality wine on the rich soils near the Tagus. These days these vineyards have largely been replaced by vines planted in sandy soils with lower yields and higher quality and the wine region renamed “Tejo”.
First stop was Casal Branco, a large estate only partly dedicated to wine production, where the group enjoyed a barbecue lunch under the trees and an explanation of the history and philosophy of the winery from owner José Lobo de Vasconcelos and winemaker Joana Lopes. Later on there was more al fresco wine tasting, when owner and winemaker Nuno Falcão Rodrigues travelled from Casal da Colheira, located further east in the Tejo, to present his wines in the garden of the Hotel Lusitano in Galego before dinner.
The following day’s tastings began at Pinhal de Torre in Alpiarça where owner Paulo Cunha led the way through his extensive cellars, stacked with aged wines, and also told the story of Portugal’s only grenache, originally the result of a delivery error but now a distinctive feature of the winery’s production! Neighbouring Quinta Lagoalva de Cima is a contrast in terms of size, a huge mixed estate of 5400 hectares owned by the family of the Dukes of Palmela. The group was shown around the carriage museum and a stableful of fine horses by one of the present generation, Ines Campilho Chaves, before sampling the wines with a lunch of Bacalhau à Brás and stuffed pork.
The last day took in Casa Cadaval in Muge for a dressage demonstration and tour of the winery before returning to the Algarve in a coach heavily laden with wine boxes!
The Algarve Wine Society next meets for a summer party at Pedras d’el Rei on 15 June.