When I visited the cork forests in the Alentejo about 10 years ago, it was October. We drove a few hours East from Lisbon, and I was amazed at how beautiful the landscape was, with the rolling hills of grass, vineyards of grapes, olive orchards, lavender growing everywhere, the beautiful oak trees, animals running around, flocks of birds in the trees. I was also surprised to see the bark taken off some of trees and not others, and I was shocked by how red and raw the trees looked! I was relieved to learn that the trees are just fine – that it is like removing the wool from sheep, the cork grows back!
On Tuesday, June 21, in the northern hemisphere spring became summer… and after nine years, it’s finally time for cork farmer Ricardo Cecilio to harvest his cork.
Real Cork closures come from cork forests in Alentejo Portugal! And tomorrow I’m facilitating a “VeroTalk” conversation where we’re learning all about corks and cork farming in this “Uncorked” VeroTalk with a cork farmer there and Sheila Donohue of Verovinogusto! You’ll be able to see the harvest yourself!
Join us Saturday June 25 at 1pm ET / 10am PT for a VeroTalk about an often overlooked part of wine… the cork! You can participate via Zoom (register now to add it to your calendar) as we chat with firsthand a cork farmer from his grove of trees live in Portugal. Cork farmer Ricardo Cecilio will be with us LIVE from his cork groves in Alentejo, Portugal during the once-every-9-years harvest of cork from his trees.
The Alentejo is an up-and-coming wine region with the largest production area of cork in the world! Located in the hilly south eastern edge of Portugal near Spain, the Alentejo is lush in some areas with these beautiful large cork trees which harbor an important and diverse ecosystem.
While waiting for nine years to sustainably harvest the cork, Ricardo cares for his trees, and in caring for the trees, he takes care of an entire and important ecosystem that also provides a renewable closure for wine
And now, after nine years, it’s time once again to sustainably harvest the cork!
We will witness this special process, so key to our favorite beverage, wine, but also cork is used in flooring and many other ways. Ricardo will tell us: his story, and about his family, and the Alentejo region. He will also share with us the joys and the challenges of cork farming. We will learn about cork production and processes, and about how cork is used in wine and the business of cork in the wine world.
In Alentejo, Portugal, the largest production area of cork in the world, Ricardo cares for his cork trees, waiting nine years to harvest– and this is one of those years! As we learn about cork from this Alentejo native, we will be tasting a traditional white wine from Alentejo, Herdade dos Grous’ white wine blend.
We’ll start with the ecology of the cork forests, and show how important they are to the local plants and animals as well as humans.
Register on Zoom here,
For summer, we’re all about easy, simple meals showcasing fresh fruits and vegetables, with fresh fun affordable wines– and these white wines from Portugal fill the bill paired with a cheese board with artichoke stuffed bread, followed by a roasted apricot and plum smoked trout salad with burrata cheese, plus a fruit tart for dessert.
These wines are ready for summer sipping in more ways than one. While other wine regions of the world may be anticipating climate change, the Alentejo is already there, growing wines in a warmer world. While most people think of red wines from Portugal, you may be surprisingly to learn that one-fifth of Portuguese production consists of aromatic white wines like the ones we showcase below, wines that you may not be familiar with because Portugal has the highest density of native grapes per square mile of any country in the world. Versatile, drought-resistant, acidic, these grapes are well-suited to Alentejo’s hot climate. Read more about Portugal’s native grapes here.
Portuguese White Wines
These food friendly wines from Vinhos do Alentejo hit the spot on a warm summer day.
- Torre de Palma Arinto & Alvarinho 2021
- Adega de Redondo Porta da Ravessa Special Edition White 2020
- Adega de Portalegre Winery Conventual DOC Reserva White 2018
- Herdade do Esporão Colheita Branco 2021
- Herdade dos Grous 2019
- Rocim Mariana White 2020
Torre de Palma Arinto & Alvarinho 2021
sample for my review
Grapes: Arinto 50% Alvarinho 50%
Pretty bottle with an attractive label.
Color: Pale yellow with a slight green tinge, very clear
Aroma: Lemon, nectarine, sea grass, the air after a light rain, white flower, kiwi,
Palate: Crisp and tart, acidic, Eureka lemon, full of flavor, vibrant, depth of flavor, eureka lemon, white stone fruit, minerals, mouthwatering. This wine really yearns for food. It is not an easy summer sipper, more of a complex wine that will accompany a light summer meal.
Pairing: Because of its intensity, this wine of all of the wines we tasted this evening was the most difficult to drink on its own; however, with food it takes you to a whole other level.
Soft creamy cheese becomes rich and bacon. Manchego becomes more like parmigiana reggiano. A creamy washed rind brie brings out the stone fruit in the wine.
The salad and the wine is like heaven: the wine loves the tart’s fruit creamy richness and smoky richness. The wine did not go very well with the goat cheese –both the fennel and the harissa. Very nice with the salad as it was great with the trout, loving the richness and the smoke. The roasted fruit in the salad loves the tart richness of the wine. This wine works across the board with this complex salad. The tart unsweetened fruit dessert is perfect with the wine. The baked fruit enhances the wine well, taming the bright acidity and leaving fresh bright fruit lingering in the mouth. While we talked about pairing the dessert with port, in the end we did not want port with this dessert, but rather this wine, which we would never have guessed when we first tasted it.
2019 Quinta da Fonte Souto Branco, DOC Alentejo, Portalegre
- SRP $25
- sample for my review
- Grapes: 75% Arinto, 25% of Verdelho
What’s in a name? In this case, it references a water “fonte” which flows freely and the vineyards are touched by a sprawling “souto”, or chestnut grove, the 2019 Quinta da Fonte Souto Branco, DOC Alentejo, Portalegre (SRP $25) is a crisp white wine from Symington Family Estates’ foray in Southern Portugal.
The Arinto, widely regarded as Portugal’s finest white grape, were handpicked and de-stemmed followed by a gentle crushing and then briefly fermented in stainless steel before aging in a combination of new French and central European oak.
Color: Lemon yellow with a tinge of green,
Aroma: Minerals galore, very earthen, green, iron, green olives,
Palate: Round rich mouthfeel, slick, textural, you can feel the minerals on the palate, kiwi, nice complexity,
Pairing: While this wine could be enjoyed on its own, it will truly be enhanced with a great dish fresh from the sea. Very nice with the fennel and dill goat cheese. This wine appreciates all that food has to offer. There is so much going on with the salad and it loves every component, rich, smoke, roasted fruit and toasted nuts, it is all there and enhances the wine while the wine elevates the meal. Brings out the kick in the harissa goat cheese, appreciates the herbs in the artichoke bread. Great with the pepperoni bringing out the sweet fruit in the wine. might even be better with Spanish Chorizo. We imagined that it would be fantastic with the muscle pork and chorizo dish that we have made on several occasions. I found myself wanting olives with the wine, then remembered that we found those characteristics in the wine. The wine and the dessert are complicated. Dessert changes this wine so completely. The wine with the dessert are butterscotch together, is there oak on the wine and is it brought out with the dessert.
2020 Marques de Borba Coheita
sample for my review
importer Aidil Wines and Liquors
Grapes: 70% Arinto, 15% Antao Vaz, 15% Viogneir
Color: Pale yellow, very clear,
Aroma: Minerals, hot springs, also lovely white flower, apricot, fennel fronds,
Palate: Slick mouthfeel, tart Meyer lemon, white flower, fennel, very nice wine,
Pairing: Fun with the artichoke bread, harmonizes nicely with the salad, the wine brings everything in the salad together. Light and breezy, things that may be bitter become sweetened by the wine. Great with manchego (no surprise there) wine brings out bright fruit in the dessert. This may not be the pairing for everybody because it is not is not a sweet dessert, however, the sweet caramelized fruit in the dessert is enhanced perfectly with the wine. Very enjoyable together. The dessert on its own is almost too tart and too bitter to be enjoyed on its own, but the wine brings out sweet pleasure.
Herdade dos Grous 2019
sample for my review
Grapes: 50% Antao Vaz, 30% Arinto, Gouveio 20%
While relatively unknown in the US, Antão Vaz is the most popular grape in the Alentejo and brings body and aromatic qualities to the wine. Arinto offers balance and minerality and adds acidity while Gouveio tends toward salt and pepper aromatics.
We wrote about this winemaker last summer when I interviewed the winemaker for a Vero Talk; learn more here.
Luis Duarte began making wine over 30 years ago. During his career, he has earned many accolades including Best Winemaker in Portugal three times in 1997, 2007, and 2014. In 2015 the President of Portugal, Aníbal Cavaco Silva, honored Luis with the Order of Business Merit, in the Agricultural Merit class, and a German magazine named Luis as the Best Winemaker in the World.
Color: Lemon yellow, clear
Aroma: Oysters with a squeeze of lemon, coastal breeze, seashore, the aroma almost yearns for the oysters and ocean salinity,
Palate: Slick mouthfeel, stone fruit, raw almond, lemon, bright and acidic, the wine is easy to drink by the glass, but will appreciate a seafood meal.
Pairing: The wine fights a bit with the roasted stone fruit and the burrata; we thought that avocado and citrus would be better with this wine. Fantastic with spicy cured meat, anything using Spanish chorizo would be perfect. After Sue tasted the wine with the dill goat cheese wrapped with fennel fronds, she felt the wine would be great with white fish grilled with fennel fronds and lemon slices. The tart plum and the plum skin was for me the most amazing pairing. This was my favorite wine with the dessert this evening.
Rocim Mariana White 2020
sample for my review
Importer Shiverick Imports
Grapes: Antao Vaz 60%, Arinto 30%, Alvarinho 10%
Color: Pale lemon,
Aroma: Peach, apricot, white flower, ocean breeze, meadow flowers, mint
Palate: Bone dry, nectarine, acidic, salinity, lemon zest, fresh mint
Pairing:The wine appreciates spices, loved the spices in the artichoke bread, great with there harissa goat cheese, loves the spicy salami and pepperoni, responds perfectly to the creamy smokey rich salad, great with the washed rind brie as well, very versatile it even handled a bit of the creamy blue cheese. We even felt that this wine would do quite nicely with Thai food appreciating heat and seafood. The wine and the dessert is so fun together, bringing out rich roasted flavors of the fruit. Sue did not add any sugar to the dessert making it super tart. The cream cheese base brought out a nice richness
Here’s more wines from Portugal we wrote about recently
Herdade do Esporão Colheita Branco 2021