About Alentejo wine

Alentejo is a Portuguese wine region located in the southern half of the country. The region covers about a third of the country but is sparsely populated. Alentejo hosts 21.970 hectares (54,289 acres) under vine, accounted for by 263 wine wineries and 97 dealers. It stands for 20% of the total Portuguese wine production of certified wine. The focus is on strong identity wines.

Wine designations

The entire region is entitled to use the Vinho Regional Alentejano designation for wine with Protected Geographical Indication, whereas some areas are also classified at the higher hierarchy Protected Designation of Origin level under the designation DOC Alentejo.

Quality wine regions

There are eight sub regions of the Alentejo region that are entitled to the DO Alentejo designation. The names of the sub regions may be indicated on the label together with the name Alentejo, for example as Alentejo/Borba:

Granja Amareleja
Reguengos de Monsaraz

Grape Varieties of the Alentejo

Aragonez (Red) - (aka Tempranillo) It makes rich and lively red wines that combine both elegance and robustness with plentiful berry fruit and spicy flavor. It's an early budding and ripening variety. It adapts well to different climates and soils, although it prefers hot and dry climates, the typical Alentejo condition.
Trincadeira (Red) - Rich in color, with good acidity and well balanced, Trincadeira makes wines of serious quality. It has vibrant scents of raspberry tempered by herby, peppery, spicy and floral complexity. It performs quite well in the Alentejo hot and dry weather where it really shines.
Alicante Bouschet (Red) - Alicante Bouschet is so deeply rooted in the Alentejo collective soul that it is often understood to be of Portuguese breed. It provides fully concentrated, deeply colored red wines with plenty of structure, firmness, tannins and color. Alicante Bouschet is rarely bottled as a single variety wine being perfect as a blending tool reinforcing its image as a structuring grape that yields pungently hearty wines.
Antão Vaz (White)- Alentejo white variety “signature grape”. Well suited to the warm and sunny climate of the Alentejo, reliable, productive and consistent. It delivers firm, full-bodied, well-structured wines. It has lively aromas of ripe tropical fruits, tangerine peel and a mineral zest along with good structure and full body. If picked early wines will show vibrant aromas and crisp acidity. Left to ripen longer it can reach high levels of alcohol making it a good candidate for barrel maturation.
Roupeiro (White)- The most-planted white grape in the Alentejo. In its younger stage Roupeiro is exuberantly aromatic with citrus and floral aromas, hints of peach, melon and bay. It does better in the cooler pockets of the Alentejo.

Vintage breakdown

The 2014 vintage – A challenging vintage that paid
The viticultural year was challenging to start with. Every month saw rainfall that was significantly lower than average but the rains of the last three months of the previous year were crucial in establishing the water levels deep down. The warm weather in the spring encouraged oidium and mildew. Substantial damage was caused to localized vineyards across the Alentejo to those who were not careful. To add to these difficulties June bought some hail storms followed a sudden burst of intense heat. Thankfully July was only moderately warm. On August a large storm blew in carrying heavy rain greedily absorbed by the vines. A few other bonus rains soon came in with a bit of unset weather. Summer was the most fresh since memory. Maturation went perfect whilst acidity kept comfortably high. Cooling the must was essential in order to get the right fermentation temperature curve.
The 2013 vintage – An excellent Vintage
Just like everywhere in Portugal mainland this year’s winter in Alentejo proved to be one of the wettest since the earliest records with rain settling in for nearly three full months. After two consecutive draught years rain was actually very much welcomed helping to replenish water levels at the vineyards. After a very long wet period came an also long period of dryness, intensified by an exceptionally warm summer with temperatures climbing up to 45ºC in wide parts of Alentejo. Unlike other regions in Portugal where there was a timely dousing for a short period Alentejo didn’t get any rain to speak of since spring. Sure enough rain came in late September and the unsettled weather persisted for nearly two weeks. Some grape varieties did naturally register a drop in sugar readings at this stage and in the lower-lying and more enclosed vineyards careful work was needed by the pickers and on the sorting tables. Early October the fine dry weather returned accompanied by a healthy wind that dried the vines and the top soil. In this phase pickers started harvesting the late varieties which gave berries in very good condition. Some excellent wines are to be expected, especially from old vineyards.

The 2012 vintage – Typical Alentejo panache
Early summer months were quite hot and dry in the Alentejo even though August mornings were fresh and humid. The mild summer resulted in slow maturation and the harvest in the Alentejo started later than usual. Whilst there has been a slight decrease in quantity this year, overall results were pretty gratifying with good quality and homogeneous maturation within the bunch. Vintage 2012 was a dry year, which has had more impact in the size of the berries as opposed to the number of bunches as it was partly mitigated through irrigation. Wines on the whole managed to get good color, good phenolics and high alcohol potential. Alicante Bouschet fared pretty well with excellent varietal definition stating it as the key variety in Alentejo. Trincadeira and Aragonez (two of the most important native red varieties) performed very well but the biggest surprise came from Castelão, the jack of all trades of Alentejo, with excellent color and acidity.

The 2011 vintage – Classical in style
Spring was wet and warm filling most of the damns near to overflowing, meaning a reduction in quantity due to attacks of mildew in some areas. The summer growing season was warm and without great heat spikes, ongoing warm and dry throughout the harvest months. May was the hottest in Portugal since records began with tropical nights and temperatures up to +3º above normal. The result was perfect weather for the grapes to reach optimum phenolic maturation. With the exception of only one brief wet interlude in the first days of September, the clement summer weather lasted throughout the harvest months, well into late October turning 2011 into one the best ever vintages.

The 2010 vintage – Definitely worth the Struggle
From October 2009 to September 2010 it rained nearly four times the Alentejo average turning it into the wettest winter since 1870. Soils were replenished to overflowing. Winter and spring were wet and cold, and heralded a delayed growing season, with the vineyard running up to two weeks behind schedule. The conditions were ideal for mildew making it a difficult growing season. Afterwards summer was set by a series of summer heat waves. June, July and August were the hottest on record. For more than 50 out of 90 days temperatures were over 35ºC, with a record number of tropical nights when minimum temperatures stayed over 20ºC. The high temperatures caused the vines to shut down, affecting some varieties. With the exception of a few inclement days, harvest weather was close to perfect with sunshine and warm weather. Trincadeira stood up well to the high temperatures.

Last edited on 9/2/2015 by ConstanceC

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