The trifecta of sun, sea and sand is what everyone looks for during the summer. This season, experience the irresistible allure of Portugal’s southern coastline especially the vineyards of the Alentejo region. An hour-and-a-half drive east of Lisbon, it is the ideal location for wine tourism. The region is driven by local ingredient cuisine and has a breathtakingly gorgeous capital that will fill you with history of Portugal’s cork country. Antelejo has a large array of native grapes with over 250 indigenous varieties making it the preferred wine region of Portugal. The reds are the darlings of Lisbon cafés and restaurants while the whites are emerging as an exciting category of aromatics. The region has many attractions that are reachable via spectacularly beautiful drives and folks can enjoy cycling, horseback riding, birdwatching, hiking in national parks, riding waves of the Atlantic coves and stargazing at the Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve.
Besides being a beautiful region, it is a region committed to environmental protection. Its dry, sunny climate naturally reduces the need for aggressive and synthetic pesticides. The result is flourishing flora, fauna and the omnipresent cork trees and holm oaks that co-exist and grow among the vines. Antelejo is the region with the richest wildlife in Portugal with diverse landscapes where birdlife thrives and the ubiquitous olive trees produce award winning oils and of course, the famous cork trees. The rich and varied biological landscape, the favorable climatic conditions and a heightened environmental awareness have all encouraged producers to adopt organic or biodynamic farming. That said, Alentejo is one of the world’s wine regions most threatened by global warming because the same factors that make it a great wine region – the heat and lack of rainfall – make the area vulnerable. For that reason embracing sustainability is a necessity. Creating nature protection areas, encouraging mixed plant and animal life and conserving scarce water resources are all tools that are being used to protect the magnificent region and its wine.
A place with so much to offer, laid-back Alentejo is sunny, safe, inexpensive and untouristed so you will get to have authentic experiences away from crowds with enjoyments such as arts, history, outdoors and of course food and wine. Culinary influences range from Atlantic, Mediterranean and even Mexican! Menus include dishes with tomatoes, peppers, sweetcorn, beans, pumpkin, lamb raised on the Alentejo plains and nearly wild pigs that are the source of the famous porco preto (back pork) and cured ham. Spaniard and superstar chef Ferran Adrià also feels that seafood from Portugal’s Atlantic coast is the world’s best. Cod, octopus and ray are found in dishes combining “surf and turf” in exciting ways. Among arts and history, military buffs can enjoy Elvas, the largest bulwark fortification in the world. The capital – Évora – has a 16th to 18th century preserved center with a Chapel of Bones that is lined with skulls and bones of 5,000 monks. Explore the tiny medieval walled town of Monsaraz, the Baroque architecture and tapestry museum of Portoalegre and the former Jewish quarter in Castelo de Vide. With many accommodations, Alentejanos are warm, welcoming and proud to share their home.
It’s time to start packing and booking tickets for a perfect summer that will be spent in picturesque Alentejo because with wine, food, art, outdoors and history, it has a little bit of something for everyone. Divirta-se (Enjoy)!