It seems like every time I book a holiday now the first thing I look for is a nearby vineyard to visit. I encourage anybody with an interest in wine to go and see how this wonderful stuff we drink is actually made, its a great way to spend a few hours.
Monte Da Casteleja
On a recent family holiday to the Algarve region of Portugal, we visited a small Organic vineyard in Lagos run by the amiable and enthusiastic winemaker Guillaume Abel Luís Leroux.
Along with his Portuguese mother and his French father who introduced him to the world of wine Guillaume spent time working in French Vineyards and running a technical team in the Douro wine region. After inheriting farmland from his Portuguese Grandfather he decided to set up his own vineyard ‘Monte Da Casteleja’ in the Algarve planting his first grapes in 2000 producing his first bottles in 2004.
Guillaume’s vision for the vineyard was to produce wine the old fashioned way with everything done manually including harvesting, treading the grapes, maceration with stems and ageing in wooden Barrels.
Wines they produce
The tour itself was very informative strolling around the vines and fig trees, Guillaume stressing the importance of feeling at one with nature producing everything naturally organic with minimal use of pesticides, all processes performed by hand (and feet), using help from family and volunteers.
Walking around you got the sense of what this vineyard was all about, a small family run concern producing around 10,000 bottles a year, taking care to produce the best possible wines they can make and for me, what turned out to be the best wines we tasted on holiday by far.
After the tour we were invited back to try the wines paired with some traditional Portuguese tapas including cheeses, fish and cakes including a lovely fig tart.
So what are the wines like?
Guillaume told us that when he started to plant vines he was advised that the area was not suitable for white wines but he was so passionate and determined to prove the doubters wrong he went ahead and made what turned out to be a fabulously intense and rich wine which I loved. Made with Perrum which is used to produce sherry, it did give the wine a very sherryesque style, with a deep gold colour which was rich with hints of subtle oak and simply delicious.
The Rosé was a real hit with everyone, full of fresh strawberry and very floral with a slightly creamy finish. Even some people who are not normally Rosé lovers were surprised how much they enjoyed this and I must say, it was perhaps the best Rosé I’ve tasted for a while.
The red was typical of the area with dark red fruit, good acidity and grippy tannins, perhaps a little young with potential for ageing but still very enjoyable now.
So all in all a brilliant way to spend an afternoon, nice to visit a vineyard where the winemaker seems passionate and takes care of the superb wines he’s making. So a big thanks to Guillaume and his team for showing us around, it’s just a shame I won’t be tasting anymore of his fabulous wines unless we are in the area again.
If anyone is planning a holiday in the Algarve, try and get along to ‘Monte Da Casteleja’ taste their wines and you will see why I was so enthusiastic about it.