After the usual eagerness to meet the customers in the early morning I break the initial ice and smiles and authenticity do as always their long-term effect. Good humor and questions about the stay and dining venues help all the participants relax and indulge in the rhythm of the tour that packs them in. Soon they are the ones who start asking questions about the country, its politics, economy, wine, and food. The tour is now everyone’s tour and we are already halfway to our destination. Time for a stop for a real Portuguese coffee: everyone then realizes why we love it served in small cups and strong. We continue on our way now refreshed and full of desire to reach our destination. We are arriving at our first destination in Estremoz. After passing through an entrance bordered with elegant cedar trees we arrive at the first winery. The architecture is completely from Alentejo and the people welcome us with great joy and enthusiasm.
It is a winery owned by a family with a centennial tradition in wine production, that was the origin of the first wine cooperative in the region. The entrance leaves us in no doubt when we look at the bulging clay jars created by the Romans to make and preserve their wine.
The visit runs smoothly with people amazed that the grapes are still trodden by foot. We explain that Portugal has never left the traditional methods, although the granite tanks for treading in this winery have given way to stainless steel tanks with temperature controlled by a computer system. However, the treading continues to take place every September and always with native families of the region who do it with great joy and often bringing their children to this party to help. After passing through an elegant barrel room with a vaulted ceiling, we proceed to the wine tasting where we can try everything from unoaked reserve wines to fresh and mineral whites, a new rosé, and ending with reds. Among the latter is a reserve from old vineyards that makes everyone smile with satisfaction. These are the smiles that secretly tell us “this was already worth the money invested”. For us too, tourism is nothing more than the smiling sector.
After a bottle purchase advised by us and the winery guides we proceed to a visit to the Pousada de Estremoz where we have the opportunity to explain the concept of rural tourism glamour of these establishments. We won’t leave before enjoying the wonderful view from the top of Estremoz Castle with its undulating plains, olive trees, cork oaks, and vineyards as far as the eye can see, punctuated by castles on the distant horizon. Finally, we explain the events and personalities that have marked this historic city so close to the Spanish border.
And this is where we stop for the warriors’ rest: precisely in what used to be a 16th-century jail is where our visitors will have lunch. With products bought from local farmers, this restaurant presents a regional Alentejo cuisine, with its own identity, but with sophisticated dishes and in a refined and informal atmosphere that everyone loves. Add the proverbial Alentejo friendliness and the golden touch of the cooks and you have a meal where the problem is to leave the restaurant…
However, we must continue and our tour will end memorably with a visit to a farm where we will first go for a drive through the Alentejo cork oak forest in a 4×4 and where we will have time to learn about the whole cork industry from the birth of the tree to the harvesting of the cork. Only then will you be able to give more value to your cork stopper and the role it plays in the preservation and aging of your wine. After all your questions are answered we will drive through the estate vineyards and end with a glorious wine tasting at the owner’s home where you will enjoy Alentejo wines and tapas and discover why the two connect so well.
After a pleasant talk about Alentejo wines and the history of the estate, you will have the opportunity to buy your favorite bottles and take home with you the sun and warmth of the Alentejo people. On the way to Lisbon, the wonderful Alentejo sunset invades the sky, turning colors hued between dark orange and toasted yellow, letting you foresee another glorious day for your stay.