Harvest Season in Portugal
Alentejo (pronounced ‘Al-an-tey-jo’) is a golden, fertile region situated just south of Lisbon. It extends from the Atlantic West Coast to the Spanish borders and is often referred to as the ‘breadbasket of Portugal’ as it’s responsible for half the country’s wine production and is the largest producer of cork in the world. People say it’s 50 years behind the rest of Portugal because life in many ways seems unchanged, it’s a region rich in cultural traditions with vast arable landscapes stretching far into the horizon and dotted with beautifully scenic and historic towns and villages.
September and October are great times to visit because you can really get close to the way of life that’s at the heart of Alentejo and celebrate the harvest season with the locals with all that entails!
Epic visitors can benefit from specially designed immersive tours that truly bring to life the region and its people. Picture driving through sunflower fields, stopping by villages with local women chatting outside their white-washed houses, and discovering sun-drenched vineyards that stretch out for miles before enjoying a picnic on a cork oak farm. Alentejo delivers Portuguese rustic life at it’s best.
The Cork Harvest
The Cork harvest starts in the spring and continues to late Summer at the end of August. It takes a decade for stripped cork to re-grow and each trunk is painted white to mark the year it was last harvested
The largest cork supplier in the world is the Herdade de Maroteira farm set at the foothills of the Serra D’Ossa, it’s a farm which has been passed down through five generations with the land that houses not only a vast cork forest but also a vineyard producing a small number of exceptional sell-out wines. Here you can enjoy the landscape’s natural springs and hike up to the top of the estate for a 360 view of the farmland boundaries where we can organise a gourmet picnic with wine, featuring the best of the seasonal produce.
Nearby is the town of Redondo dates back to 1318 which can be woven into your visit, to take in historical sites and a visit to local pottery, where you can turn your own pot before finishing the visit with supper in a local tavern where locals come to enjoy the famous black pork and regional cheeses.
From Vine to Glass – Winery Visits during Harvest Season.
There are some really stunning wineries in Alentejo. Herdade do Esporão is one of Portugal’s most impressive estates with its iconic white castellated tower which has become a mark of the brand. We organise a privately arranged visit so you can see the winemaking process from grape to bottle and enjoy a wine tasting of some of the house’s favourite wines with a food and wine pairing lunch.
As an alternative to this rather upscale experience, amateur viticulturists can visit many family-run wine estates which allow you to get a bit more hands-on by actually harvesting some of the wine. You will be provided with all the necessary kit including cloth, appropriate footwear and grape pruning tools. Once you’ve picked your fair share of grapes, the winemaker will take you to the cellars for an explanation of the post-harvesting process. At this point it’s time for a traditional lunch with regional food and wines to be enjoyed with your fellow harvesters and is often accompanied with a toast and a few local songs.
The more traditional, small-scale wineries who still hand-press their grapes will allow you to participate in Pisa Pe during the harvest season. This is the process of stomping on the grapes in order to extract the juice from the skins. It’s one of the oldest traditional wine-making methods and the Portuguese certainly know how to have fun with it! Expect live music in the background as you dance around the grapes in large marble vats, you’re always rewarded with a glass of wine for your efforts upon exiting!
Staying in Alentejo
Epic have good relationships with a number of authentic rural retreats in the region within different price brackets. All have been vetted and curated by the Epic team to fit with the kind of style and service level our customers like and expect.
Sao Lourenco do Barrocal is one of the most exceptional stays with an old olive oil mill room, ancient bee garden, winery and a walk that will take you along a trail of olive trees, some of which are more than a thousand years old. You can enjoy horseback riding, stargazing, bike rides and family picnics or take a dip in the pool, afternoon in the spa or enjoy al fresco dining.
Ancient Towns and Villages
Evora, also referred to as the capital of Alentejo, features the Roman ruins of the Temple of Diana, and signs of Moorish gates, defenses and an old Kasbah, it is a historically significant city and became home to many of Portugal’s kings, however, it is often best known for its famous ghoulish medieval cathedral which is made of bones.
Monsaraz know as the ‘Museum village of Alentejo’ is a walled medieval town with a population of only a few hundred, it oozes peaceful charm and tranquillity, featuring whitewashed schist houses encased within the castle walls, a 16th-century church, and shops selling traditional Alentejo handicraft.
Epic can provide guided tours and of course curated restaurant recommendations and bookings.
Hiking & Cycling
The flat golden planes make a perfect destination for a bit of light hiking and cycling, there are rolling hillsides in some areas too if you prefer a bit of a challenge.
Epic can provide cycle hire and map out routes as well as organising the delivery of a delicious picnic lunch on the way.