A TASTE OF PORTUGAL
A Portuguese estate is resurrecting a centuries-old winemaking tradition to produce award-winning wines from the slopes of one of the country’s most stunning natural parks.
“We are re-establishing Mértola as a winemaking region,” said Paulo Teodoro Alho, who, along with his brother Miguel and Vítor Pereira, a friend of the family, has been marketing Discórdia Wines since 2014. “There are now five producers, all small projects, but we are working with the Alentejo Association to get designation for Mértola. We focus on quality wines, using many of the same ancient traditions. We care about the vineyard – we believe that great wines are made on the vine, not in the cellar.”
The ancient town of Mértola sits in the heart of the Guadiana Valley Natural Park in Portugal’s Alentejo region, and was an important source of grapes for the Roman Empire – exported from Portugal back to Rome – for several hundred years.
While commercial wine production disappeared from the area for many centuries, people continued to make wine for local consumption. But over the past 30 years Alentejo wines have been resurgent, rivalling better-known Portuguese regions for both quality and variety. Now Miguel, Paulo and Vítor are at the forefront of a new wave of commercial producers putting the area back on the wine map, championing the produce of Mértola with their Discórdia Wines project.
The wines use grapes from the estate run by the three owners: Herdade Vale d’Évora, which covers 550 hectares. And the Guadiana Valley plays a key role in Discórdia’s success. “It’s a unique and very special place,” said Miguel. “The Guadiana River runs through the middle of the park, and the soil and terroir here are very different to anywhere else in Alentejo. They are more similar to Douro, as is the climate, with temperatures ranging from zero degrees Celsius in winter to 50 degrees Celsius in the summer. These characteristics pass into our wines, which have more fruit flavours, more freshness, greater concentration and more acidity. All of these elements combine to make very special wines.”
It’s not just the partners who believe their produce is special. Paulo Alho, father of Miguel and Paulo, bought the estate in 2007, and they began planting the vineyards in 2010, producing their first wines two years later. Discórdia Wines reached the market in 2014 and, despite being a newcomer from a small vineyard, it gained recognition on the international stage, winning six medals – including three golds – in its first two years of participation.
Herdade Vale d’Évora is not just about wine. Mértola is the Portuguese hunting capital, and visitors to the estate can spend their day indulging in this regional passion. Vítor Pereira is keen to emphasize that the only game on offer are those native species living wild – from partridges to wild boar – and, as with the vineyard, sustainability and a respect for the natural environment are key. Currently vines cover just 10 hectares of the estate, but the Discórdia team – which works with winemaker Filipe Sevinate Pinto to perfect its produce – aims to plant a further 27 hectares this year, expanding on the four varieties of red grape and three of white. Further plans for the future include a boutique 22-room hotel, enabling guests to enjoy both the beauty and produce of Vale d’Évora.
But for now, the focus is on continuing to create great wines for an ever-expanding market. “We live in a beautiful and unique region of Portugal,” says Paulo. “We’re determined to ensure Discórdia Wines reflects those qualities.”