A pioneer in wine tourism in Portugal, Herdade do Esporão invites you to “Live the Territory” and get to know the wine and olive oil production in a very good Alentejo experience!
For those who know the Portuguese wines, Herdade do Esporão does not need presentation. It is one of the oldest and largest wine producers in the Alentejo, with the first harvest created in 1985.
It was also a pioneer in wine tourism activities in Portugal! In 1997 Esporão opened the doors to the visitors who wanted to know more about its wines and olive oils. It continually modernizes the spaces, updates the activities and remains always dynamic.
Motivated by the latest suggestion of Herdade do Esporão “Live the Territory”, I spent a whole day at the farm in Reguengos and I guarantee that one day was not enough to explore it all!
Upon arrival at the reception, a mini-van drove us through the farm to the vineyard to get to see where everything begins! In September, the suggested activity was to participate in the harvest so I helped to the pick up Tannat grapes – the best known variety in Uruguay that has adapted very well to the Alentejo climate.
Herdade do Esporão has ventured into organic farming around 10 years ago with the aim of making wine production more sustainable, environmentally friendly and true to its origins.
Today, out of the 1.400 acres of vineyard, Esporão already has 370 accres certified with organic production and the remaining are in the process of conversion.
In addition to the harvesting, the estate also organizes other outdoor wine tourism programs such as horse-drawn carriage rides around the homestead and historic center, bike rides, picnic on the estate, among many others.
Back to the main building to visit the cellars of Herdade dos Esporão: Monte Velho, Lagares and barrels room. All of them have been renovated or recently built, where one can clearly see the intention of architectural harmony and consistency of style between spaces.
The Monte Velho is a modern cellar, spacious and exclusively dedicated to the transformation of the grapes into the entry level wine of Esporão.
Lagares cellar is a special place! Not only because of the material used for its construction – made of Taipa, a technique based on organic matter, stones and dirt from the 7 different soils of the estate, compressed and transformed into walls – but also the ceiling lined with barrel staves giving movement and aesthetics to the building and inspiring wine makers to produce excellent nectars.
Inside, the large marble wine press and the clay amphoras remind us of milenar wine-making techniques, full of wisdom and that must be preserved.
I then headed towards the underground wine cellar. With the Alentejo heat out there, this was indeed the best place to be! Designed after Lisbon’s subway platforms, the cellar holds hundreds of oak barrels in its long corridors, where most of the wines rest.
Right in the center of the cellar I found a futuristic table! It was created by SKREI – a team of architects who also designed the Lagares cellar – and follows the same aesthetic and material lines. The hundreds of staves of barrels with different toast, give this round table different shades of wood and once again, movement and dynamics.
And to better understand this “toast” thing, I had the opportunity to smell wood chips with different firing intensities and to notice the influence oak wood has on the aroma and flavor of the wine.
I returned to the surface and in the wine bar, I had the organic wines Colheita waiting for me to taste. Since Esporão decided to embrace organic farming, there were many challenges faced, but finally in 2015 the first vintage came out.
Esporão Colheita Tinto 2016 – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Touriga Franca gives it plum and blueberry aromas combined with some vegetable notes. In the mouth the body of the Touriga Franca and the structure and acidity of the Cabernet Sauvignon are easy to notice.
Esporão Colheita Branco 2017 – is totally made from Antão Vaz, known for its citrus palate at the beginning but with notes of ripe white fruit at the end. These are silky and engaging wines, with intense and very persistent after taste.
At the restaurant, I found a very varied menu in which all the dishes are made with organic products, national production and aromatic herbs and vegetables growned of the own estate! Chef Carlos Teixeira recently moved from Lisbon to Esporão to add a personal touch to the excellent work done by his predecessors. Carlos relies his cookings in 3 essential principles: organic, portuguese produce and zero waste.
I left myself totally in his hands and the delicacies were arriving at my table, paired with wines carefully chosen for each flavor. The images speak for themselves!
When expresso came, served with a plate of petit fours, I could not resist and moved to the porch in front of the restaurant.
With wooden tables under shade and an immense view of the vineyard, olive grove and dam of the Charity, in this scenario the sounds of nature stand out perfectly explaining the motto “Living the Territory” of Esporão.
Being the olive oil one of the most important products in the Portuguese gastronomy and economy – and that about 70% of this comes from the Alentejo – I went to the mill to pay a visit.
Ana Carrilho is Esporão’s oleologist and with the greatest enthusiasm, wisdom and patience she explained to me the whole process step by step since the olives arrive at the mill until they become olive oil.
There are also tastings here, in a room full of light and a table prepared for the taste of oil, where we get to know all the secrets of the portuguese “liquid gold”
The day was long, but at the end I did a quick stop by the shop where all the wines of this producer – from Alentejo to Douro – spirits, olive oils and local handicrafts are available to take home.
I made the road back to Lisbon, but before leaving the homestead, I stopped one last time.
Went up to the big White Tower, so famous for bottles of wine, that from 1267 quietly observes from the high, sunset after sunset, the creation, growth and success of Herdade do Esporão!