Port, Madeira, Carcavelos?
Portugal’s fortified wines are well known around the world, but with big brand names taking shelf space in your favourite liquor store, how about asking about a lesser known but historical fortified wine for true imbibers. May I introduce my current indulgence – Carcavelos.
I sat down with Alexandre, the head manager of the Vineyards and Wine Project for Carcavelos Wine Villa Oeiras about producing a fortified wine from Portugal with a tumultuous background and a admirable growth into an indulgence for the elite.
What is the history of Carcavelos?
This brand was developed as a public project to recover an unique and historical wine, and one of the smallest demarcated regions on the planet! Nearby Lisbon, this region suffer, during the XX century, an enormous pression for urban development, and the culture of the vineyard no longer could compete with that!
So by the effort of the President of a National Agronomic Station, at 1983, replanted on the Marquês de Pombal Farm, in Oeiras, were this National Station is installed, the first 5ha of vineyards, after the lost of vineyard area that took place in this farm, during the XX century. Since then the City Hall (the Municipality!), joined this “idea” for support this effort!
The early years were spent recovering the technology, and the history of the place, and, since 2006, the Municipality started to guide this project to a more comercial attitude, giving the visibility that this wine need and deserve!
So, we are civil servants hired by the Municipality! I am a Landscape Architect, working for more than 26 years in the municipality and I am coordinating this project since 2006! Until 2018 i was able to work in landscaping (Managing the Green areas Department) with the wine business, but since 2018 i focused on this project 100%! And that’s something that give me great pleasure!
What is the signature wine?
Our signature is, for sure, our Carcavelos Villa Oeiras Superior! It’s a 15-year blend and, last Novembre was classified with 94 points in The Wine Enthusiast, and it was the editors choice! In the flyer you can check the main characteristics of this wine, but, as a fortified wine is one of the four big fortified wines from Portugal, along Porto, Madeira and Moscatel de Setúbal!
Is Carcavelos considered a national emblem of Portugal?
The Lisbon region for wines is quite a complex one! We have a demarcated region for fortified wines (Carcavelos), we have a DOC for another historical wine (Colares), a DOC only for a white variety using only Arinto (Bucelas), another DOC for Aguardente (like cognac), one of the sole three regions on the world for that (Lourinha), and plenty of other sub regions with very different kind of wines!
The vitis vinífera is settled in this region since the last ice age, and is used to produce wine for more than 2.000 years.
We have records that this region produces fortified wine since the XV century! But it was with Marquês de Pombal (Prime Ministry of King Jose the first), during the XXVIII, that this region gained international recognition!
The urban development, the economical and political crises that we saw during the XX century in Portugal, took a large part of the vinyards apart! So, the rehabilitation of this region, as a wine region, with a quite unique wines, is something very important for Lisbon!
Who is producing Carcavelos?
Nowadays we are the only project that is producing Carcavelos wine, but we are supporting, technically and with our winery, other starting producers, as the Municipality of Cascais, and some small local producers that developed the interest in the region.
In the entire DOC, we only have 25ha of vineyards, and our projet take care of 13ha! Next March we are going to plant more 6ha, and we hope that in the next 10 years we can enlarge the area of vineyards for more than 50ha! Steel is a very small area for a so important and unique wine…
What is your goal?
As a public project our main goal is the recovering of our wine heritage, producing an historical and unique wine, supporting the entire DOC for other new projects!
We are “forced”, as a public project, to invest in the investigation, so we have a tight relationship with the universities! We are obliged to now everything about the region and this wine, so we develop a lot of different experiments (on technology, aging, blends…) to understand better this wine and its grape varieties.
Resuming: we are obliged to produce the best Carcavelos Wine in the world! So far we are achieving very good results!
For the perfect Food Pairings with Carcavelos – read more HERE
What do you want people to know about your wine and Carcavelos?
We hope that we can show our consumers the excellence of this wine, his uniqueness, his place as one of the best fortified wine in the world, and a rare wine that represents an historical wine region with more than five centuries of history in producing fortified wines!
Why is it important to Lisbon, the culture, the people?
In fact the last 50 years in this region, the urban development, the political and economical crisis that we faced, obliterated the wine culture of an entire generation! The recovery of the landscape heritage, as a wine region is quite important in a urban area as Lisbon! This appellation for the agriculture, for nature, and for our heritage is something that our generation demand! So this is a recovering heritage project! Not only another wine project!