The wine region of Lisboa is a large, diverse one. It runs up north from Lisbon, bounded by the Atlantic coast on one side and the Tejo river to the east. Until 2009, this region was known as Estremadura.
It’s a region with a slightly downmarket image, because of its past emphasis on bulk production of inexpensive wine. After phylloxera, the region answered a strong demand for inexpensive wine from Lisbon. So, high yielding varieties were chosen for regrafting, and the vineyards were set up for producing quantity. Then, the demand from the Portuguese colonies was for more inexpensive wine, and Lisboa was happy to oblige. This has hindered the development of more interesting wines from better terroirs. But things are changing.
‘This region has a long history of making great wines,’ says Sandra Tavares da Silva of Chocapalha, one of the top producers here. ‘So we always believed we could make great wines from here.’
I visited to attend the annual celebration by the Lisbon Family Winegrowers, which is an association that was formed by three quality-minded wine producers: Quinta Sant’Ana, Quinta do Monte d’Oiro and Quinta de Chocapalha. The three take turns to host the celebration, and this year the venue was Sant’Ana. The following day, I visited the other two quintas.
The celebration began when the first of the 300 guests arrived at 11 am. A band was playing, and there was a tasting tent where the current release whites and rosés were being poured. It was shaping up to be a scorching day, and temperatures were already over 30 degrees.
The next phase was an indoors tasting of back vintages of the wines from the three quintas. This was a great opportunity to see how the wines developed over time, and included a tasting of the debut vintage of the Monte d’Oiro Syrah (1997), as well as Chocapalha’s first Arinto (2008) and verticals of Sant’Ana’s Riesling, Alvarinho and Pinot Noir.
Then it was back outside for lunch, which was washed down with current release reds. The food had a Cape Verde theme, and was really good. The courtyard was full of colour, life, talking, drinking and even a bit of dancing. I escaped at 4 pm to jump in the pool, but then came back to do some more drinking and mingling. It was a lovely day.
‘Today has been about a union of friendship of our three quintas, showing our latest vintages to the trade,’ says James Frost of Sant’Ana. ‘It’s a bit of fun; something different. There are not many joint parties of quintas like this in Portugal. We want to show that we are serious wine producers but that we enjoy doing it and have a bit of fun as well.’
Full write ups on the wines will be added tomorrow…
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