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Portugal’s best red wine comes from the Alentejo

Top Grower from the Alentejo - Júlio Bastos

Every year, the prestigious magazine Essência do Vinho holds a glamorous event where they choose the best wine in Portugal. At this year’s ceremony, the thirteenth in the history of Essência do Vinho, winegrower Júlio Bastos from the Alentejo won the coveted trophy with his Grande Reserve Alicante Bouschet 2012.

Júlio Bastos’s estate, the Quinta Dona Maria, is not only impressive for the outstanding quality of its wines:

The farmstead was built in the 18th century, located near the city of Estremoz in the Alentejo – one of the loveliest municipalities in the entire province. Estremoz is situated on a hillside, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. Like its neighbouring cities Bora and Vila Viçosa, Estramoz is also famous for its marble, which was already being quarried in the hollows near the city in the late Middle Ages.

But back to the Quinta Dona Maria...

The interiors of the 18th century buildings are richly decorated with the blue and white tiles typical of Portugal, and the region’s native marble can be found all over the premises. According to legend, King João V (the Magnificent) at one time acquired the estate for his beloved Dona Maria, after whom the winery was ultimately christened.              

All told, the area around Estremoz is considered one of the most exciting, up-and-coming wine regions in all of Portugal, and Júlio Bastos is one of its marquee players. In 2002 he painstakingly renovated the centuries-old wine estate, in the course of which he chose to retain the traditional ‘lagares’ – the open fermenters of marble. Even today, harvested grapes are gently trodden by foot. Bastos is particularly proud to have some of the oldest vines in the region – as a matter of fact, Alicante Bouschet vines – which yielded the wine that won the trophy.

And the winner is... Alicante Bouschet! 

Fourth place in the awards went to the Alentejo as well: Maladinha Nova 2013 from the estate Herdade da Malhadinha Nova also comes from the Alentejo. No surprise here, and it draws a significant parallel that both wines were made from the grape variety Alicante Bouschet. Ever since this particular vine was introduced to Portugal, Alentejo has been the preferred region for its cultivation. And the variety has become here so deeply rooted that it is frequently regarded as an indigenous grape. But in fact, it is an immigrant variety; the result of a crossing between the French vines Petit Bouschet and Grenache, Alicante is without a doubt the most ‘Portuguese’ among the country’s non-native grape varieties.

Read more here about the grape varieties of the Alentejo.