The Alentejo region covers 30 000 square km and though only 5% of Portugal’s population lives there it produces 17% of the country’s wine. The wines have a spicy minerality and savoury character, more reminiscent of Italy than neighbouring Spain.

The tumultuous history of the region has seen the uncertainty of decline as well as cycles of enlightenment. We are currently in a golden age with vineyard health and winemaking expertise contributing to some exciting wines that are starting to take their place on the world stage.

Look out for Aragonez (Tempranillo in Spain) for elegance, Alicante Bouschet for rustic charm, Touriga Nacional (originally from the Dao though most famous in the Douro) for colour, concentration and powerful aromatics, or Trincadeira – temperamental but with juicy acidity to contribute to a blend.

For whites Arinto gives crisp clean lines, Fernao Pires has tangerine and rose fragrance and Gouveio is rich and full bodied as you’d expect from a variety that was mistaken for Verdelho until recently.

The wines surprised me with their freshness despite the hot growing conditions as growers become more accustomed to picking earlier avoiding the raisiny character which I previously associated with this region. In some cases there are older vintages available now (2007) which beautifully show how delicious these wines become with age.

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