Harvesting the Grapes

August and September are the months of the vine harvest in the Algarve and you may spot workers hand-picking grapes in one of the region’s 2,000 vineyards comprising 30 producers.

When I talk to Ana Matias Chaves, she is on her family estate helping to harvest the 2021 crop. They need 12 people to bring in the harvest – four from the estate and eight seasonal employees.

They hand-pick into 12 kg boxes in order to preserve the quality of the grapes which take two weeks to harvest. It has been a bumper crop this year for their nine different varieties of grapes.

“There is much more quantity than last year and better quality. This is partly due to the higher levels of rain we had this year and because of the treatment we give them. Each year we try to improve the quality.”

Their estate Herdade Barranco do Vale is located in São Bartolomeu de Messines, in a place called Campilhos, between the sea and the mountains of Monchique and Caldeirão in the Algarve. The estate extends for about 100ha of natural beauty, where in addition to the vineyards there are cork, carob, olive and pine trees. A small lake glistens between gently sloping countryside. The vineyard offers tours and tasting, and a chance to enjoy the magical beauty of the estate.

The vines were planted by Ana’s grandfather, Ramiro da Graça Cabrita, as a hobby. Ana remembers, “He would bring his friends here and entertain. They would experiment with making wine and have many fun times on the estate.”

Tragically Ramiro died from a sudden illness in 1991, aged 71, and the estate was left to Ana’s mother. For years, Ana’s parents decided to send their crop to the grape processing plant in Lagoa.

In 2016, to honour her grandfather, Ana and her husband Luís decided to start making wine on the estate. Their philosophy was to create their own style of wine, coming up with the perfect combination of the Mediterranean and Atlantic influence of the Algarve and its most traditional grape varieties, such as Negra-Mole, Aragonez and Castelão, revealing elegance and balance in their wines.

In a touching tribute to her grandfather Ana tells me, “Every year I write a letter to my grandfather on the back of the wine label, telling him what we have done. We tell our story. I want to take what my grandfather left us and do something different.”

The estate produces three reds – the Herdade Barranco Do Vale Castelão Reserve Red 2018, the Herdade Barranco Do Vale Blend Reserve Red 2018, and the Herdade Barranco Do Vale Aragonez Reserve Red 2019. Ana explains, “Ou rur wines seek to express what is not found in a commercial wine produced on a large scale, which is exactly the approach of the winemaker João do Ó.”

To compose the red grape varieties, they also brought a rosé 100% Negra Mole, one of the oldest grape varieties in the Algarve region. A wine that transmits freshness, aroma, softness and a little sweetness, typical of the grape variety that delivers a little more grape sugar.

In addition to these, the most recent nectars presented by Herdade Barranco do Vale are the white monovarietals (made from a single grape variety) including – Herdade Barranco do Vale Chardonnay White 2019, Herdade Barranco do Vale Sauvignon Blanc White 2019 and Herdade Barranco do Vale Viognier White 2019.

Another highlight is the Herdade Barranco do Vale Sauvignon Blanc White 2019 that lives up to the grape variety and the terroir, and which they describe as being “seductive, with notes of passion fruit and tangerine, with a vibrant and persistent acidity”. It was awarded with a Gold Medal in the XIII Contest Vinhos do Algarve.


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