As I said previously, no matter how many places Mr. O and I are fortunate to go, there is a trip that it is non-negotiable: our week in July in the South of Portugal. And how do we start it? With a weekend in Alentejo, which is the bit (quite large!) between Lisbon and the Algarve.
Alentejo is one of my favourite places in the world. It is not overdeveloped (on the contrary), it is quiet, hot, the food and wine are amazing, and the pace of life slow slow slow – perfect to wind down and start a week. Or stay there forever.
Alentejo is also one of the best-known winemaking regions in Portugal. I am not sure how familiar most of my readers are with Portuguese wines, but as Mr. O says, it is one of Portugal’s best kept secrets (the others being the food.. and the women.. I wonder why?).
Herdade do Esporão is one of my favourite winemakers in the world. I have visited their estate quite a few times, but was excited to see their new “enoturismo”. The new site, opened early this summer, provides a place where lovers of wine culture and gastronomy can go for a “crash course” in nature, beauty, art, history, wine, and food of Portugal and Alentejo in particular.
We arrived just before lunch and had a private tour of the property, whilst tasting some wines. It would be rude not to.. a great start, indeed. I was looking forward to lunch, as always, but particularly to something quite different – olive oil tasting. Esporão produces some of the best olive oils, which I always make sure I take back home in the UK.
But what I will never forget besides the fantastic food and wine pairings? This beautifully set table, right on the vineyards. If this doesn’t put you in the mood for a glass and start a holiday, I don’t know what does…
After lunch, it was time to learn a bit more about wine. And buy some more to bring back! I loved the new wine bar, which doubles up as a shop, where you can select from Esporão’s whole range. I did endulge – and not ashamed to admit it!
After an amazing time at Esporão, I needed a little rest, and there was only one place to go: the fab Convento do Espinheiro, located not far away, in Évora. I have been quite a few times and I must say it is one of the best hotels in Portugal in terms of its setting and, very specifically, service. I don’t usually comment about this, but I feel I must.
This hotel is quite special – part of it was in fact a convent, and it was a great mix of modern and old decor styles. It is not grand – and nor would I want it to be. There is something quite special about it, that makes you feel in the mood. Could be the wine, though!
We had a bit of sun, a bit of spa (which is fantastic, by the way) and it was soon time again for a bit more wine. The hotel kindly organised a private tasting for us, like in previous times and it was a great start to the evening. One thing I particularly love, is the fact that the hotel is independent (of the wineries) and everytime we go, we always discover great new wines.
An incredible dinner (and guess what, a bit more wine) were next, followed by a great 10-hour sleep. I don’t know about you, but if I can get 10 hours, I am a pretty happy girl.
And to wake up to this view… I can’t think of a better place to start the summer.