Alentejo—Portugal’s Vast Region
Alentejo stretches from northern granite hills to southern plains to cliffside beaches in the southwest. The landscape is populated by vineyards, cork, oak, olive, and eucalyptus trees. Here one finds agriculture a major part of the economy where cattle, horses, pigs, sheep predominate. The hot summers and cool winters signify a Mediterranean climate with some Atlantic influence though due to varied topography temperatures may vary. It does get cold enough to snow in Alentejo but infrequently.
Casa Relvas is the general umbrella under which all the Relvas businesses are included the initial thrust was with Herdade Sao Miguel and later Herdade da Pimenta. Casa Relvas is a family affair with Alexandre Senior at the head followed by his two sons Alexandre Jr. and Antonio. Both sons are well versed in the vine with educational degrees from Bordeaux.
Herdade Sao Miguel
I have had the pleasure of visiting Alentejo sveral times and twice was the guest of Alexandre Relvas at his Herdade Sao Miguel. Sao Miguel has an expansive region of Olive and Cork groves along with many vines. Here began Alexandre’s Sr.’s mission with the vine!
In 1997/98 he planted 98 hectares (244 acres) of cork trees and some 35 hectares (86 acres) of domestic vines along with olive groves in 2016. The result of his “project” has resulted in a highly successful venture of over 300 hectares (742 acres) of olive groves and 350 Hectares (865 acres) of vine in several areas.
Grape Varieties: Trincadeira, Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional.
Herdade da Pimenta
Herdade da Pimenta has been part of the Relvas business since 2001 with a first harvest in 2007. Its location is also the headquarters of Casa Relvas and housed within an ultra-modern building that has received many accolades for its design and technology from around the world. The Herdade itself consists of 150 hectares (371 acres). of vines.
Grape Varieties: Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca (Red) and Arinto, Viognier, Antao Vaz
Note: Due to demand of its wine and other products, other vineyards are rented and managed by the team members.
Alexandre Relvas Jr.
I met young Alex on my first visit to Portugal’s Alentejo and stayed at Sa o Miguel for several days. I found the young man who was barely in his teens to be extremely inquisitive with an insatiable desire to learn. On my subsequent trips, I made sure I visited Sao Miguel. Alex certainly was his father’s son as his knowledge, responsibility, and capable talent proved to have grown by leaps and bounds. No father could be prouder served. Alex has turned into a passionate winemaker and capable director.
Nuno was the very first member of the team Sao Miguel that I met. It was in Toronto at an agency called Hobbs & Co. Margaret Hobbs had invited me to meet an up-and-coming winemaker/consultant from Portugal and wanted me to taste his wine. Little did I know that I was on the verge of a great adventure which albeit started some years later but set in motion that day. Nuno is one of the gentlest and politest persons winemaker or not, that I have ever met. His gentle nature overpowers one as he describes his wines and reveals his amazing talent for making one of this planet’s superb wines. The last time I saw him was at the Pimenta Winery where we tasted some of its fine wine. On this occasion, I did myself a big favour and just listened to Nuno do his magic. That was in 2012 and the time has come to meet again.
Wines at the LCBO
Herdade Sao Miguel 2017 Vintages #17515
Grape: Touriga Nacional
Colour: Red, clear
Nose: Black Cherry, plum and blackberry with nuances of anise, chocolate
Palate: Full, Sumptuous with a superb long finish. Good now but so much better in one or two years
Note: Stock almost out so check store listings. New supply coming for December.
Herdade da Pimenta 2018 Vintages# 445114
Grape: Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon
Colour: Dark Red, clear
Nose: Dark Fruit, chocolate, anise
Palate: Round, firm, and full with pleasant but prominent tannin and a finish of concentration.
Note: Wine is showing good now but will benefit from at least another year of aging. Will continue to develop for several years after. Great price for this level of wine. This wine has a strong blend of the first three grapes listed and has additional international grapes for added flavour blend. The 2019 will just have the initial three in the blend.