Travel stories to discover

The vineyard of Herdade da Ajuda

Wine production in Alentejo

Portuguese province of Alentejo. A dark complexion, a little bit obese worker is arranging stacks of wine barrels. Drawn away from his work at the moment he reveals unconcealed enthusiasm and willingness to guide us through the vineyard. We are on the 21-hectare plantation in central Portugal. Not so long ago, only barreled wine had been produced here, which subsequently was sold to restaurants and wholesale clients. Since two years the vineyard has a new owner, who employed a network of distributors to get involved in the retail sale of wine under its own brand.

The Herdade da Ajuda grapes are harvested usually in late August and early September, but in this extremely fertile season the grapes have already been harvested in mid-August.

Tasting the ’09 vintage

The harvesting is always done at night because cold grapes retain its freshness and taste longer. Special fruit processing machines are used to squeeze the juice. The remaining dry waste is also used for different purposes (not the wine) and raw juice goes to large steel casks, where during a few following weeks the process of fermentation would take place. The resultant mixture already contains alcohol and depending on the type of wine is at some point interrupted and filtered. It is a very careful process, as one has to careful not to accidentally produce vinegar.

We taste the wine straight from a huge, ten-meter high cask. The wine is murky, but it does not contain sediment. Both white and red wine appeal to me, however usually I definitely prefer red wine. We take a look at the bottling process.

Just before leaving we buy a few bottles of red Chafariz Tinto 2007 and Ajuda Branco 2007  and a five-liter bag of the latter. To drink a wine and to drink the wine, knowing the field on which the grapes ripened and the barrels in which wine was gaining its taste are two different experiences.

October 2009