Ribafreixo winery is a good example that wines are a passion and a dream that can come true in any moment!
The initial plan of this business man Mário Pinheiro when returning to Portugal, after a long season in South Africa, was to finally enjoy his retirement. But his plans changed when, during a hunt day in the Alentejo, he met Nuno Bicó, and they both start thinking of a wine project together!
It was in Vidigueira, near Ribeira do Freixo, that Ribafreixo wine production was born. In 2007 they planted the first vineyards, highlighting the portuguese grape varieties but, in memory of the good times spent in South Africa, Mario joined the white Chenin Blanc as well.
The first vintage happened in 2007, not yet at their own wine cellar and with from white wines, that Mario and Nuno were very proud of! The modern winery opened in 2012 allowing not only more autonomy but above all a stronger brand identity.
Today Ribafreixo has 4 ranges of wine – Barrancôa, Patofrio, Connections and Gaudio – that exports a little to the whole world.
I learned about all this the I visited the wine cellar and I found Liliana, who had already welcomed me at Quinta de Santa Cristina in Vinhos Verdes (find the post here). Liliana also surrendered to the charms of the south of Portugal and again in Ribafreixo she took me to explore this winery in Vidigueira.
Always with a big smile and good mood, Liliana showed me part of the 222 acres of vines and told me that Ribafreixo wines are 100% vegan! My first reaction was “but aren’t wines all vegan already…?” the truth is that traditionally some animal products, such as egg whites or gelatins, are still used to filter and clean the wines. Although organic farming is not a practice in Ribafreixo, there is a great environmental awareness and respect for nature that is reflected in the quality of the wine produced.
And that’s what I was able to prove later when we got to the Adega Restaurant. Before any other detail of the room, what inevitably caught my attention was the view to the vineyard! Even better with a glass of Pato Frio Rosé Cashmere in hand 🙂 This wine is made exclusively from red Touriga Nacional which gives it an excellent floral aromas at first, then freshness and a good taste of red fruits.
One of the activities that the Ribafreixo wine cellar organizes for visitors is a taste of 3 Alentejo cheeses with house wines: fresh goat cheese with the also fresh Pato Frio White Selection, the buttery Serpa cheese with a structured white Antão Vaz Grande Escolha – made from old vines – and an intense sheep-cured cheese with fortified Gaudio wine.
This tasting was guided by the winemaker Débora Mendes who explained each pairing and made us discover new aromas and flavors, both in cheeses and wines.
Just this tasting had already made my day, but lunch was yet to come! A table full of tempting entrees – chorizo, roasted peppers, chicken pie, more cheese, local homemade bread … – followed by a delicious dogfish soup (one of my favorite Alentejo dishes!), grilled lamb chops with potatoes and, to finish all this feast, a selection of conventual portuguese sweets. I must say that, considering this amazing lunch only, the young Chef Catarina Parreira has a promising future ahead of her!
Throughout this “parade” of delicacies, several wines were served. I highlight the red Gaudio Reserva 2013 – top of the range Ribafreixo – mostly Alicante Bouschet. This wine is full bodied, structured and fills the mouth with spices, blackberry jam and even some dark chocolate flavours.
I was really glad to see that Ribafreixo is betting on a quality wine tourism and for everyone, as children are also challenged with a fruit juice tasting to begin to explore their taste buds!
Congratulations on the project 🙂