Our travel pulse invites you this weekend to discover another facade of the Algarve: the well-known Portuguese region.
The Algarve known for welcoming lot’s of tourists throughout the year and being a place for new based Expats, now it is starting to play its cards on wine production. Vinciane Nieuwenhuys, a Belgian lady from Brussels, and her Monte do Além is placing Lagos on the wine map.
Located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Monchique mountains and possessing a mild Mediterranean climate, the Lagos area offers perfect conditions for winemaking. Making the most of this advantageous location, more and more winemakers are settling in the area and launching good quality wines.
In Odiáxere, Vinciane Nieuwenhuys is producing Monte do Além on her six-hectare wine estate built in 2000. She fell in love with the Algarve during her travels, and ended up buying a property and renovating the existing house before embarking on a viniculture adventure making high-quality organic wine. She decided to take a chance and began launching her own labels in 2007.
With a firm conviction that quality wines come from quality grapes, the couple ensures that their vineyards are monitored every day for optimal growth, and follow all the necessary criteria for organic wine production in Portugal. Aiming to respect the local soil and also the consumer, no pesticides, weed killers or synthetic chemical agents are ever used at Monte do Além, and the winery is currently awaiting its organic certification from the Portuguese authorities. “We often see wildlife, like rabbits or partridges on our farm, as they feel this is a welcoming, natural environment,” noted Vinciane.
She considers winemaking as a never-ending quest for perfection and bases their approach on strict tannin control and obsessive tasting to ensure the best results. At Monte do Além, harvesting is undertaken entirely by hand and wines are left to age in French oak barrels for 12 to 18 months. Winemaker Parviz also opts to use drip irrigation when necessary to produce well-rounded wines, as the vines can suffer from excessive dryness in the summer months.
One of the estate’s first releases was Monte do Além Petit Verdot red 2007, which was praised by wine critics and has become a calling card for the winery. This is one of the two single variety wines currently produced by the winery, along with the flexible Aragonez. Also part of their portfolio is the smoky Syrah-Grenache blend and the Monte do Além red, a combination of all the grape varieties available at the estate, excluding Grenache. With a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Aragonez, Syrah and Petit Verdot, the Monte do Além red is a strong, full-bodied wine that blends well with pheasant, duck or rabbit pâtés, as well as beef stews, cheeses and certain desserts. In addition to these four red wines, the estate is also known for its rosé, made from Aragonez, Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, depending on the year. The next Monte do Além rosé will be released in early spring, and according to Vinciane, it already boasts “a great colour”, so rosé lovers will certainly be in for a treat.
With the rosé costing €5, prices for Monte do Além’s wines range from €4.5 for the Aragonez single variety up to €15 for the Petit Verdot. These are available not only at the estate, but also in local supermarkets, including Intermarché and Apolónia, and restaurants. As for exports, the couple has already introduced their Algarve wines in their native Belgium, as well as Switzerland and France.
Commenting on the 2015 harvest, Vinciane observed: “It was a good year considering the little rain and intensive heat we had.” She added that the couple has tasted the wines almost every day and “they are excellent”. Wine lovers will have to wait a few more months to find out.