Lisboa travel guide for wine lovers

Lisboa travel

Lisboa might have been off your radar, since output from its three historic, quality-focused DOC sub-regions (Bucelas, Carcavelos, Colares) is minuscule. What’s more, for most of the last century, the region was predominantly an engine room for the supply of bulk wine to the colonies and cheap drinking for Lisbon’s traditional tabernas.

However, led by boutique estates and artisanal winemakers, a quality revolution is identifying, or resuscitating, top terroir, wine styles and grape varieties. With more than 100 different permitted varieties for Vinho Regional wines, it is work in progress.

Ocean influence

Just as the waterfront and Lisbon’s hills help differentiate its neighbourhoods, so Lisboa’s windswept coastline (a surfing mecca) informs this long, skinny, Atlantic-facing region’s terroir. In Colares – a narrow strip of land bookended by the Atlantic and Serra de Sintra – mountains trap cool, humid, salt-sluiced fogs, producing high-acid, high-tannin, saline wines.

Due south and also near the ocean, Carcavelos DOC’s elegant fortified wines have tell-tale salinity. Breathing fresh life into this old classic, the success of new brand Villa Oeiras (which has planted more of the unique local grapes Galego Dourado and Ratinho) has encouraged winemaker Claro to rent a vineyard there. The Carcavelos Wine Shop sells the wines, and offers tastings and visits to the vineyard, winery and Marque?s de Pombal’s aesthetic 18th-century cellar by appointment.

Surveying the wider region from Serra de Montejunto, its highest point, the wind turbine-studded landscape and the beautifully restored windmill, Moinho de Avis attest to the Atlantic’s reach further inland. Windmill owner Miguel Nobre explains that the wind-whipped, western (Atlantic) side has completely different growing conditions to the sheltered, warmer eastern side. On the western face of the mountain itself, Marta Soares of Casal Figueira has won fresh respect for her old vine Vital; grown on limestone-streaked soils, it produces a limpid, mineral white.

Finely balanced mineral whites from local grapes Fernão Pires and Arinto are also a strength for new-wave producers Vale da Capucha (certified organic) and Quinta da Boa Esperança, in westerly DOC Torres Vedras. Commodity broker Artur Gama gave up the day job to follow his passion for wine, but has yet to persuade his teenage daughter to quit city living, so you can rent his stylishly renovated house and experience vineyard living first hand.

Arinto revival

Fans of military history may know Torres Vedras. The Duke of Wellington helped devise the ‘Lines of Torres Vedras’, which repelled Napoleon during the Peninsula War. While there, he developed a penchant for ‘Lisbon hock’, a fresh, citrus-fuelled Arinto from Bucelas DOC. It is enjoying a revival of interest from outsiders – including Sogrape (Portugal’s biggest producer), which bought the region’s largest vineyard (Quinta da Romeira) – and it features in the ranges of winemakers Nuno Mira do Ó and Jorge Rosa Santos.

Discover why Arinto works so well in the Trancão Valley (as well as Bucelas’ connection with Shakespeare) at Quinta da Murta. Visits are possible by appointment.

Murta’s winemaker, Hugo Mendes, makes a delicious Fernão Pires and Arinto blend in Alenquer DOC under his own name. However, tucked neatly in Montejunto’s rainshadow, Alenquer is best known for reds. Pioneers Paulo and Alice Tavares of Quinta de Chocapalha and Quinta do Monte d’Oiro’s Jose? Bento dos Santos lead the field (the Tavares’ daughter Sandra is a renowned Douro winemaker, while Grégory Viennois, former chief winemaker of Maison M Chapoutier, consults for Bento dos Santos). Both host private visits by appointment.

Whether it’s a two-hour session or a day with lunch, one of the family always receives guests at Chocapalha. While Chocapalha focuses on Portuguese grapes (flagship CH Touriga Nacional and new Guarita, made from Alicante…

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