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The Alentejo – Bread, Wine & Cork

The Alentejo – Bread, Wine & Cork

by Tony Coelho

Alentejo landscape

Located southeast of Lisbon and north of Algarve, the Alentejo is dotted with medieval castles and the remnants of Roman and Arab architecture. The climate varies a good deal, but it is mostly warm and dry: In fact, the region is one of the warmest in Portugal, making it an ideal climate for Portugal’s breadbasket.

The Alentejo covers approximately one-third of the landmass of Portugal, but with only 759,000 inhabitants it represents a tiny 7 percent of its population. Thus agriculture—and the food and wine it produces—is quite rich here: Many traditional wines, cheeses and smoked hams and sausages are produced in the area. For example, Queijo de Nisa, among others, is a locally produced cheese with a protected designation of origin (meaning it can only be officially produced in this region).

Wine estates also can be found throughout the region. There are three wine routes that make up the greater Alentejo wine route. The São Mamede Route (named after the natural park mentioned above), the Historic Route and the Guadiana Route each have their own set of characteristics and attractions. The Alentejo is renowned widely for its unique wines.

Quinta dos Ferreiras - Alentejo

Quinta dos Ferreiras – Alentejo

A large amount of cork is produced in this region as well. The bark of the cork oak (or sobreiro) is harvested by hand with axes in the traditional manner, as there is no industrial option that is more efficient in harvesting the bark. The cork oak is one of the few trees that can handle this sort of bark stripping, and the bark of just one cork oak can produce up to 4,000 wine bottle corks.

The region also has a long history of encounters with foreign cultures, giving it a certain cultural diversity. Beautiful nature parks can be found here: the Parque Natural de Sao Mamede, for example, features quaint medieval villages and a Mediterranean climate that supports a diversity of wildlife. The Parque Natural da Serra de São Mamede is one of 30 officially protected parks in Portugal.

Places to Visit in Alentejo

One of the most popular places to visit in Alentejo is Évora, once the capital of Portugal and witness to the Roman and Moorish civilizations. Other notable towns include Alcacer do Sal, Regengos de Monsaraz, Estremoz, Arraiolos and Marvao.

Alentejo Travel Suggestions

If you plan to drive through the Alentejo, check out our self-drive packages, such as Lisbon Towns and Villages. Escorted tours that pass through the Alentejo include the Best of Portugal and Portugal in Depth.



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