The Alentejo, Portugal, has taken 1st place in voting for the Best Wine Region to Visit in USA TODAY's 10Best.com Readers' Choice travel awards.
Portugal is one of the most innovative wine countries in Europe. The charming Alentejo region is a fast emerging wine region that is known for its vast cork oak forests, it is a rolling landscapes, not to mention its bold wines.
The USA TODAY had this to say about Alentejo:
#1 - Alentejo, Portugal http://www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-wine-region-to-visit/
"When most people think of Portugal, they immediately think of Douro," says Kerry, "but head a little further south to Alentejo and you won’t be disappointed. Boutique wineries, full service hotels, great restaurants and of course terrific wines (mostly known for hardy red wines) make for a great wine travel experience."
An ancient tradition:
For more than 2,000 years, from before the time of the Romans, the Portuguese have celebrated the fall harvest. In protected valleys, where microclimates have nurtured grapes, the fall is a time to reap the benefit of months of hard work. From the plains of the Alentejo, to the Valleys of the Dão and Douro, it is a unique event that only now visitors can take part in, and in high style and local color enjoy this ancient rite.
Experience the excitement and history of winemaking and participate in numerous activities and celebrations throughout the 20 distinct wine regions of Portugal. Lose yourself in the stunning landscapes of the wine-making regions: from the charming, verdant Minho where the vinho verde grapes grow on trellises, to the terraces of the Douro, the oldest demarcated region in the world and home of the famous port wine.
In Centro de Portugal region meanwhile, the wine routes run not through the countryside, but through towns. Each is brimming with history. Venture further south and the routes near the capital have a close connection to water. Along the River Tejo, the Ribatejo Route travels through fertile fields irrigated when the river bursts its banks.
Many of Portugal’s centuries-old estates have now opened their own inns to welcome travelers, especially during the fall harvest, when the world is invited to share the traditions, tastes and colors of this ancient industry with modern overtones. Visitors can enjoy overnight stays or just simply tour the vineyards and take part in grape crushing or tasting dinners while enjoying the sweeping views over the river valleys and fields of Portugal’s wine country.
When the month of September comes around, all over the north of Portugal you will find people celebrating the ritual of the wine harvest, a tradition that is an important part of the identity of the northern folk, especially in the regions of Douro and Minho.
Synonymous in people’s minds with a time of festivity, but also one of hard work, the grape harvest has become a spectacle attracting more and more visitors each year: all along the slopes of the valley, men can be seen walking through the vineyards carrying baskets of grapes on their backs, whilst the women sing popular songs linked to this festive period.
And, visit Madeira in September when you can take part in the grape harvest celebrations and the Madeira Wine Festival, a homage that is paid each year to this age-old product, which has long been widely recognized internationally. Raise a glass to Madeira wine and delight in its taste...
Portugal has the oldest appellation system in the world, the Douro Valley. This region and Vinho Verde, Alentejo and Dãos region, in the Northwest produces some of the world's unique wines. Portugal has two wine producing regions protected by UNESCO as World Heritage: the Douro Valley Wine Region and the Pico Island Wine Region in the Azores.
What makes Portugal’s special is the variety of native varietals, producing a wide variety of wines with distinctive personality. The Oxford Companion to Wine describes the country as having "a treasure trove of indigenous grape varieties." And, 8% of Portugal is dedicated to vineyards.
For more information, visit www.winesofportugal.info
Why is this Portugal’s time to shine? And why the Alentejo?
Wine experts say that Portugal is making the best wines in its long history. The country has steadily invested in its winemaking industry for the past 20 years by adding modern equipment, careful cultivation and improving on techniques.
In recent decades, the Alentejo's winemakers have ushered in many modern advancements, earning critical acclaim for its full-bodied, fruity reds and light, oaky whites. On the border of Spain, this arid region is a rural place of rolling plains covered with large agricultural estates, and dotted with whitewashed homes and cork trees. The Alentejo climate of hot summers and cool winters helps create flavorful grapes that transfer into characteristically ripe and complex wines.
The winemaking in the Alentejo is closely tied to the region’s development and can be traced back to the Roman occupation.
The Alentejo has a remarkable ability to produce extraordinary wine of high quality. The soil’s composition and the region’s huge plains give rise to a great number of vineyards.
The Alentejo is a mystical place of gliding plains, sudden mountains, and the largest cork forests in the world. The Alentejo’s Cork Country is a lightly populated region with open horizons, where the rhythm of life follows the rhythm of regional songs. And, this fertile land produces more than half of the world's total cork supply.
Things to do in Harvest Time:
Consider spa treatments dedicated to the wine
The Yeatman - Experience the advantages of Vinotherapy and benefit from a relaxing time in the Spa. http://www.the-yeatman-hotel.com/en/porto-spa/
L'AND Vineyards Resort - L’AND Vineyards Resort – Small Luxury Hotels of the World
Combining architecture and natural beauty, the five-star L'AND Vineyards Resort relies on only 22 suites in an atmosphere of quiet luxury. All of the suites include a private terrace with a fireplace, a view of the lake, direct access to the pool, iPad and iPod technology and other details.
The Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa, located in the L'AND Vineyards, brings a unique experience of serenity and pleasure to its visitors with exclusive rituals, massages and beauty treatments based from local grapes and other natural products.
Caudalie Vinotherapie Spas feature the use of warm spring water with grape and vine extracts to offer sensual and delicious treatments, such as the crushed Cabernet exfoliation, the honey and wine wrap, and the Vinoperfect treatment. With light wood and soft stone features gracing its architecture and its signature Fleur de Vigne scent with organic essential oils wafting in the air, the Spa is surely not to be missed.
Madeira Wine Fest - Start Date: 2014-08-31 / End Date: 2014-09-07 Take part in September in the festival that's dedicated to one of the most famous products from Madeira island. ?The Madeira Wine Harvest Festival is always the perfect excuse to visit Madeira. In Funchal, the allegorical light, sound and music shows are the high points of the celebrations that take place at other points on the island. For a start, in the Estreito de Câmara de Lobos, 5 miles from Funchal, the live wine harvests are an excellent opportunity to take part in one of the oldest local traditions, whether picking grapes or following the grape harvester groups. ?In the center of Funchal there are light, sound and folk shows connected to traditional winemaking.
The Madeira Wine Festival celebrations are a tribute to the effort involved in its production and at the same time serves to promote and to reaffirm Madeira Islands as a tourist destination of excellence overseas. This event has been commemorated since the late seventies. Nowadays these festivities begins in Funchal downtown area, and include the European Folklore Week, ornamentations, exhibitions, displays and live portrays depicting Madeira wine and the craft involved in its production, in addition to a diversity of concerts based on light music and traditional music shows.
Madeira Wine History available at http://www.vinhomadeira.pt/History-205.aspx, plus http://festasdovinhomadeira.visitmadeira.pt/index.php?id=4&lang=en and http://www.visitportugal.com/en/destinos/madeira/73840
Be a part of the harvest at Malhadinha Nova, Alentejo – early September
Harvest Experience - first contact with a grape harvest. A genuine taste of Alentejo Recipes gathered in a Traditional Lunch, learn from the Winemaker with a Wine Tasting.
The warmth of the Country Estate, the sounds of a summer evening and the delicate aromas of the Late Harvest: http://www.malhadinhanova.pt/en/winery/wine-tourism/ and http://www.malhadinhanova.pt/en/experiences/20140819/harvest-experience/
Harvest at Esporao estate, Alentejo – up to September 24th -- Esporta loves the traditions of the harvest in the Alentejo. Celebrate the special harvest program with the picking of the grapes in the vineyards. In the wineries and cellars explore the process of vinification and aging of wines- and try them. The program ends with lunch at the restaurant with the Harvest menu of typical flavors of the Alentejo, with the touch of the contemporary cuisine of Chef Miguel Vaz. http://www.esporao.com/enoturismo/programas-especiais/
Quinta do Gradil - Harvest Party. Everyone gets to harvest the grapes, which become a limited edition wine limited to 1000 bottles. It is an unforgettable day full of history and tradition. The Quinta do Gradil estate was once owned by the Marquis of Pombal, and is oldest homestead Cadaval - thirty minutes from Lisbon. The program includes a tour of the vineyards accompanied and a guided winery tour followed by a wine tasting lunch.
Casa da Insua in Penalva do Castelo, Centro – harvest escape: Explore the estate, field and vineyards. Try the local jams, see how the wines are made, and have a tasting meal. Live a typical day in the life of a farmer! http://www.casadainsua.pt/content-a-day-in-the-farm.aspx?pid=24&cid=154&id=381
Nova offers a "harvest program" for guests who want a hands-on experience with the Douro Valley's vineyards. http://www.quintanova.com/client/skins/english/vprodutos.asp?id=63
Or be Winemaker for a day
You will be taken through the entire wine making process and create your own wine. The process begins with the blending, Followed by bottling, corking and labeling. Once finished you will be able to take your wine home with you http://www.quintanova.com/en/wine-tourism/
Harvest at Quinta da Pacheca in Douro Valley
The day begins with the cutting of the grape in the middle of the Pacheca vineyards. With the sunshine comes the meal, even in the middle of the vineyard, maybe an onion soup and sardines are the dish of the day. After a day in the field, treading the grapes is the last step, before the real party. http://www.quintadapacheca.com/en/Quinta-of-Pacheca/Enotourism/The-Harvest.aspx
Quinta da Avessada Harvest in the Douro Valley
Annually during the months of September and October, the Douro region celebrates the ritual of the harvest. Visit the Douro in the grape harvest is known inside the soul of the Douro. http://www.enotecadouro.com/#!programas/vstc6=vindimas/vstc1=programas
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