By Henrica Vanderaa

In Portuguese, Dona is used for a woman of honor or respect and so it is not by chance that João Raposo’s wine is named Dona Niza, after his mother. And like a woman worthy of respect, this local Lagoa wine gained sufficient respect from the judges at the XIII Algarve Wine Contest on 6 May to win first place out of 135 wines. Take your hat off to the Dona Niza which is the first white wine to be awarded this distinction in only its third year of production.

Tucked away at the end of a dirt road between Carvoeiro and Lagoa – unknown even to many locals – is where you will find Monte do Lobo. This ‘hill’is one of three estates that have been in the Raposo family for a few generations. It is here where I met with João Raposo in the wine tasting room, built into the hill much like a bunker and thus naturally cool.

It was only three years ago that João Raposo decided to take on the family’s lands to plant vineyards. The site had been neglected for several years. With patience, determination, and a lot of sweat, the Crato grape variety was planted here and the Arinto on the land nearby. When speaking to João, there is no doubt that the vineyards are a true labour of love for him and surprisingly, his vineyards are his hobby. João runs a business in advertising and graphic design in Lagoa. He did laugh when he told me that even though his business is promoting businesses, apart from the billboards on the main road into Carvoeiro from Lagoa, there are no signs leading the way to the Dona Niza vineyards. But even if Niza vineyards and wines are hard to find, its reputation is developing a keen following, especially now that the Dona Niza Arinto 2019 has earned a gold medal.

Monte do Lobo Wine tasting bunker

The complex simplicity of Dona Niza

Only two varieties of grapes are grown: Arinto and Crato. Both are white. The grapes are grown in a clay limestone soil where there is little water, meaning the grapes are ‘survivors’ and mature into becoming a flavorful grape perfect for the picking and wine making. The Arinto is a clean and crisp wine, with hints of white fruit and flowers, perfectly balanced, and somewhat less dry than a typical Arinto wine. A chilled glass of a Dona Niza Arinto on a hot day is a most refreshing complement to seafood, poultry or pasta dishes but also a perfect wine to be sipped and savoured on its own.

Like much of the charm of the Algarve, the Dona Niza Arinto is genuine in its simplicity, yet complex in its make. What started as a hobby three years ago has earned first place, which says everything about the man behind the vineyards, the soil, the grape and the Algarve as a place to grow wine. With 135 wines participating at the XIII Algarve Wine Contest, oenophiles who enjoy going local have plenty of choice. And if Dona Niza is first on your list, both the Arinto and Crato can be found at the Intermaché in Carvoeiro, at a few select restaurants in the Lagoa / Portimão area and also in Lisbon, or can be ordered online.


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