Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Wine Chronicles | It's Harvest Time!

The harvest is one of the most special times of the year for the wineries and, this year, I had the opportunity to participate, and just love it! Well, it wasn't the real deal, all day under the sun, picking grapes and taking the heavy buckets to the wagon. It was a (very) light version of it, in the right amount to make it totally enjoyable and fun.

Now, all you wine lovers that are reading this, pay attention: 2017 is going to be an exceptional year to Portuguese wine! Although the extraordinary climate conditions have made the harvest start 2 to 3 weeks in advance, due to the early warm weather that hit the country this Spring and to the very hot and dry Summer that we had, the quality of the wine only seems to be enhanced by that, and I can hardly expect to taste 2017 wines.

The day started with the grape picking, and everybody, armed with a bucket and a pair of scissors walked along its own line of vines, picking the ripe grapes while trying not to shop off their fingers. Must proudly say that we all city folks manage to survive our time of harvesting with no major injuries.

But after filling a couple of buckets, there is still much to do before your bottle of wine arrives to the table. Buckets must be carried and dumped into the to the wagon that will take it to the winery. Must thank to Pedro that made all the hard work for me, while I was photographing. At the winery, the grapes must be crushed (yes, with our feet!), a process that takes several days. Than the crushed grapes go to this concrete deposits to ferment and later the wine will go to the barrels. Getting the wine into the bottles, it will take some time, so I must be patient and wait for a while before I can take a sip of some 2017 wine.

By now, most of the estates have finished the harvest, but if you're interested in having a similar experience, you better check if there is still something going on, or make your plans for next year. Many wineries of the various Portuguese wine regions have harvest days on their wine tourism programs. I was invited by Horácio Simões winery and spend a delightful morning with them at their Palmela estate. The Setúbal's Península Wine Region has many wineries that you can visit for the harvest time, and if you are a visitor to Lisbon, this can be a very convenient choice for the short distance to the Portuguese capital.

Casa Agrícola Horácio Simões
Rua João de Deus, 10
2950-731, Quinta do Anjo, Palmela
Phone:  +351 212 870 500
Mobile: +351 938 442 319

For other options in Setúbal's Peninsula Wine Region, please contact

Casa Mãe da Rota de Vinhos
Largo de Sao Joao Baptista
2950-248 Palmela
Phone: +351 212 334 398

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Chronicles from Alentejo | Malhão Beach (Praia do Malhão)

Last August I've visited some spots on the awesome Southwest coast of Portugal. I've written here about the stone piles of Vila Nova de Milfontes and today bring you Praia do Malhão, a spectacular beach close to that coastal town and about 1 hour and 45 minutes from Lisbon.

We left Lisbon under a sunny, blue sky, to arrive at a misty coast, hardly seeing more than a few meters ahead. If Praia do Malhão is beautiful under the sun, with the filtered light looks almost magical. Eventually, the fog dissipated and the sun started to shine. It was my first time there, but I plan to come back and can't recommend you enough to visit it if you have the chance.

To get there you'll have to drive your car trough a short (kind of...) bumpy dirt track, but then you'll find a large, organized parking lot and nice and easy access to the beach. And what a beach! A large extension of white clean sand, protected by the dunes and shielded by the rock formations. At the low tide, there are small pools on the rocks and with the high tie there can be nice waves for the surfers. If you practice naturism, the north part of the beach is welcoming to that. There is a Surf School, but I didn't spot any restaurant, so you better be prepared with some water and snacks.

All along the beach and over the dunes, you can find some newly built walks with view points to catch the best views of Malhão, and of the coast. I love to photograph the dune vegetation and even spotted a little baby falcon on one of its first flights.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Wine Chronicles | Wine Tasting at Filipe Palhoça Vinhos (Palmela)

This Spring I've visited a group of wineries in the Seúbal's Peninsula Wine Region (and tell you about it in this post). This amazing wine experience organized by the  Rota dos Vinhos da Península de Setúbal (Wine Route) and the 3 wineries involved was fantastic and I can't recommend too much for you to check if it is available on your next visit to Lisbon.

Filipe Palhoça Vinhos was one of the visited wineries, and today I'm bringing to you some more information on the estate and on its wine tourism activities. Filipe Palhoça Vinhos is a family-owned company dedicated to viticulture and wine production for more than 50 years. The estate, Quinta da Invejosa, is located in the sand plain of Palmela, and it has 90 hectares of carefully cultivated vineyard, where red grape varieties dominate. There you can find Castelão, Syrah, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. But not less important are the white varieties like Fernão Pires, Arinto, Syria, and also Muscat of Alexandria and the rare Moscatel Roxo  (Purple Muscat).

In our visit, we enjoy the company and expertise of the passionate winemaker of Filipe Palhoça, who took us in a visit to the vine gardens and shared her knowledge on vine growing and wine making. From the vineyards we get to Quinta da Invejosa, the headquarters of the estate, to know some more about the wine making process and for a tasting of Moscatel wine, that we paired with a traditional cake of the region (Fogaças).

First, we tasted Filipe Palhoça's Setúbal Muscat Fortified Wine DO, deliciously fresh, with orange peel flavors, that became one of my favorites (you can check its datasheet below for all the details). Then we had the opportunity of tasting a Moscatel Roxo, straight from the barrel. This rare variety of Muscat is specific to this wine region and was almost extinct a few years ago.

You can visit Filipe Palhoça winery for a guided visit to the estate and wine tasting, all the year around. You can know all about it on their Wine Tourism leaflet and contact the winery for booking your visit. The winery also presents several scheduled events along the year, like the sunset wine cruise on the Sado or the harvest experience.

Filipe Palhoça Vinhos
Estrada Nacional 5, Km 24,8
Quinta da Invejosa
2965-213 Poceirão – Portugal

Phone: +351 265 995 886
Mobile: +351 919 709 324

Monday, 11 September 2017

Lisbon Chronicles | Ursa Beach (Praia da Ursa)

Next to Cabo da Roca - a cape close to Lisbon, in the Sintra region - the Ursa beach (Praia da Ursa) is the most western beach in Europe and perhaps one of the most stunning beaches I've ever visited. Clear, bright waters (icy too!), pristine, white sand, just a bunch of people and an awesome landscape make this beach a spectacular place.

But all good things come with a cost. There is no direct access to the beach and you have to go down (and then up) a cliff for hundreds of meters on what can hardly be described a goats path. The next day my legs's muscles hake with all the effort, but the memories I hold from the place make it worthwhile.

You can walk from Cabo da Roca, enjoying the nature and the great views of the coast, and then go down to the beach. Make sure you get some shoes fit for the challenge (I was wearing Havaianas, and it wasn't the best choice, believe me!), and some water and food for the day. If you love photography, don't forget your camera as the scenery is absolutely breathtaking.

Hope you will enjoy it as much as I did!

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