In the Herdade Aldeia de Cima every plot of land is unique

The value of the land

In the Herdade Aldeia de Cima every plot of land is unique. Its specific characteristics have attracted people who have settled here since time immemorial. The village was erected in a breezy zone, 330 metres above sea level, on the slope of the underlying schist outcrop. Comprising an enormous extension of cork oak and holm oak, including 1,750 hectares in the Serra do Mendro, there has always been a typical Mediterranean land use in the local schist soils that are apparently poor, but rich in diversity.

Vila de Sant'Ana - The Aldeia de Cima (Upper Village)

Santana is a small village in the civil parish of Portel, located near the old Roman road between Évora and Beja, that borders Vidigueira, along the southern border of the Alto Alentejo region. "Sant'Anna da Serra do Mendro" was first mentioned in the eighteenth century, in the Parish Records of Portel, Vila Viçosa, written between 1722 and 1832, after renovation of a medieval church, that was described as lying between "two villages – the “Lower” (Baxo) and “Upper” (Simo) village. The “Upper” village was first mentioned in 1758, and appears to have given rise to the name Herdade Aldeia de Cima (= Upper Village Estate).

Community Life

The typical Alentejan architectural style, of mud and brick houses and farm buildings, with whitewashed walls punctuated by small windows, has been recovered by the present owners - who aim to revive the estate’s authenticity and the village’s community spirit.

Due to their isolation, the Alentejan people have developed an autonomous and sustainable way of life, reflected in their rich gastronomy, that combines dairy farming products - milk, curd, cheese and lamb – with honey, nuts and produce from the local vegetable gardens and orchards.

Bread remains the local staple food, attesting to the huge surrounding grain fields.

D. João d'Aboim

In 1258, the King D. Afonso III granted a plot of land - the Portel Mafomode - to his steward, D. João de Aboim, making him the first Lord of Portel. He was a man of great learning, erudite and an illustrious troubadour, who lived for many years in France. He bequeathed a huge number of love and friendship songs to Portugal, that have served as an endless source of research into medieval literature.

After D. João de Aboim’s death in 1301, King D. Dinis negotiated, with his widow and daughter, the first acquisition of the estate, and it remained the property of the Royal Household until 1385, when King D. João I granted it to Nuno Álvares Pereira, after he led Portugal to victory in the Battle of Aljubarrota. The “Holy Constable”, as he became known, later bequeathed the estate to his grandson, Fernando de Portugal, who became the Duke of Bragança. As a result, Portel pertained to the House of Bragança until the 1820 Liberal Revolution, when it was confiscated and integrated within the general administration of the Portuguese State.

Today
we respect the past
to build the future

Wild Rosemary Honey

The pure honey of the Herdade Aldeia de Cima is produced with minimal human intervention, based on the diversity of the typically Mediterranean pollen-rich wild flowers - in particular wild rosemary that grows in the unique ecosystem of the cork oak forests of the Serra de Mendro, untouched by industrial or urban pollution.

The warm early summer temperatures are ideal for extracting liquid honey, and peak production is usually between June and July. The cooler winter temperatures may cause the honey to crystallise, without any loss of nutritional value - the mark of high-quality honey.

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Sustainable agriculture

Benefiting from unique biodiversity, the Herdade Aldeia de Cima has always had abundant water, as shown by the many water wheels. The small lower-lying plots of land, in the more fertile zones, have been occupied by vegetable gardens and fig and pomegranate orchards. The plateaux are occupied by red Alentejana Cattle herds, bulls, Black Iberian pigs and sheep, who graze on white barley and oats.

Today we respect the past to build the future.

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Merino Branco Sheep

Merino Branco is one of the oldest sheep breeds in the Alentejo, brought by Phoenician, Greek and Carthaginian merchants on their trade voyages to the Iberian Peninsula. These docile sheep, with their robust bodies and fine wool, graze in the huge cork oak forests in the Herdade Aldeia de Cima. The herds roam freely, taking advantage throughout the year of the natural pasture land in this sustainable ecosystem. They thus ensure reforestation of the soils and associated biodiversity and, help prevent forest fires during the Alentejo’s hot summer months.

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The legendary olive grove

The Herdade Aldeia de Cima has a legendary olive grove that resists the passage of time - the Horta das Fontanais. More than a 100 ancient olive trees occupy a 1.25 ha grove, testifying to tree’s survival capacity and the quality of the soils. The dry-looking trunks can, in certain cases, exceed 8.5 metres in diameter.

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The Cork Oak Forest – a sustainable cultural landscape

The cork oak forest in the Herdade Aldeia de Cima is located within the Iberian-Mediterranean ecological area of the Ossa-Morena zone. Its anthropogenic system is based on the mixed presence of two oak species – the cork oak (quercus suber) and holm oak (quercus rotundifolia) and provides a variety of foodstuffs and wildlife habitats, which are essential for soil conservation, regulation of the water cycle, reduction of carbon emissions and conservation of biodiversity.

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The Cork Oak Forest – Conservation of Biodiversity

This cultural landscape of the South of Portugal is considered to be one of the world’s 35 most important ecosystems for biodiversity conservation – on a par with other natural paradises such as the Amazon rain forest, the African savannah or the forests of Borneo. It offers ideal survival conditions for over 200 species of animals and 135 species of plants. It is also a paradigm of sustainability, since it produces a variety of non-timber forestry resources - of which cork is the prime example, and also including acorns, mushrooms, honey and even game.

1 2 3 4 5 6

Wild Rosemary Honey

The pure honey of the Herdade Aldeia de Cima is produced with minimal human intervention, based on the diversity of the typically Mediterranean pollen-rich wild flowers - in particular wild rosemary that grows in the unique ecosystem of the cork oak forests of the Serra de Mendro, untouched by industrial or urban pollution.

The warm early summer temperatures are ideal for extracting liquid honey, and peak production is usually between June and July. The cooler winter temperatures may cause the honey to crystallise, without any loss of nutritional value - the mark of high-quality honey.

Sustainable agriculture

Benefiting from unique biodiversity, the Herdade Aldeia de Cima has always had abundant water, as shown by the many water wheels. The small lower-lying plots of land, in the more fertile zones, have been occupied by vegetable gardens and fig and pomegranate orchards. The plateaux are occupied by red Alentejana Cattle herds, bulls, Black Iberian pigs and sheep, who graze on white barley and oats.

Today we respect the past to build the future.

Merino Branco Sheep

Merino Branco is one of the oldest sheep breeds in the Alentejo, brought by Phoenician, Greek and Carthaginian merchants on their trade voyages to the Iberian Peninsula. These docile sheep, with their robust bodies and fine wool, graze in the huge cork oak forests in the Herdade Aldeia de Cima. The herds roam freely, taking advantage throughout the year of the natural pasture land in this sustainable ecosystem. They thus ensure reforestation of the soils and associated biodiversity and, help prevent forest fires during the Alentejo’s hot summer months.

The legendary olive grove

The Herdade Aldeia de Cima has a legendary olive grove that resists the passage of time - the Horta das Fontanais. More than a 100 ancient olive trees occupy a 1.25 ha grove, testifying to tree’s survival capacity and the quality of the soils. The dry-looking trunks can, in certain cases, exceed 8.5 metres in diameter.

The Cork Oak Forest – a sustainable cultural landscape

The cork oak forest in the Herdade Aldeia de Cima is located within the Iberian-Mediterranean ecological area of the Ossa-Morena zone. Its anthropogenic system is based on the mixed presence of two oak species – the cork oak (quercus suber) and holm oak (quercus rotundifolia) and provides a variety of foodstuffs and wildlife habitats, which are essential for soil conservation, regulation of the water cycle, reduction of carbon emissions and conservation of biodiversity.

The Cork Oak Forest – Conservation of Biodiversity

This cultural landscape of the South of Portugal is considered to be one of the world’s 35 most important ecosystems for biodiversity conservation – on a par with other natural paradises such as the Amazon rain forest, the African savannah or the forests of Borneo. It offers ideal survival conditions for over 200 species of animals and 135 species of plants. It is also a paradigm of sustainability, since it produces a variety of non-timber forestry resources - of which cork is the prime example, and also including acorns, mushrooms, honey and even game.

The cork oak Multiple benefits for nature

Identified using at least four names in the Portuguese language: sobreiro, sobro, sobreira or chaparro, the cork oak is a member of the oak family (quercus) and is an indigenous species of the Iberian Peninsula. Due to its economic importance, which does not require the trees to be felled, it has been continually planted since antiquity in the Mediterranean countries of Europe and North Africa.

It has unique characteristics: it is covered by a bark composed of a vegetal tissue called suber - or cork - which regenerates after being harvested. It is the only species in the Mediterranean basin that can regenerate from the canopy down, after severe forest fires. Its leafy crown can reach 25 m height in adulthood, and the collective forest canopy helps reduce wind speeds, yielding a less extreme micro-climate in winter and summer. This lengthens the growing season of neighbouring plants and protects nearby crops.

The bark regenerates after being removed from the tree

With a lifespan of 200 years, an individual cork oak tree needs 25 years before it is mature enough to have its bark harvested for the first time. It is a process that is repeated every 9 years by specialist craftsmen who are the highest paid farm workers in the world. Cork oaks comprise 21% of the total forestry area in Portugal, so they create barriers against desertification and soil erosion. The cork oak tree also plays a key role in retaining tons of CO2, thus providing a valuable aid in reducing greenhouse gases, the main cause of climate change. The cork oak tree is protected by law and has been declared Portugal’s National Tree.

Wild Game

The Serra do Mendro is famous for its hunting traditions. Its mountainous landscapes and diverse flora have engendered abundant game - partridge, hare, wild boar and small fowl – making the Herdade Aldeia de Cima justly famous. Game management has replaced the age-old role played by predators in preventing degradation of the local flora.

These distinctive hills and valleys harbour a richly diverse ecosystem that provides an exceptional habitat for smaller species, in particular the Iberian partridge, which is an emblematic species of the region and challenges the skills of the most attentive hunters

Set upon rocky, schist soils, the cork oak and holm oak forests, interspersed with maritime pine, provide a natural habitat with for shrubs, such as Esteva (cistus ladanifer), rockrose, gorse, broom, and wild blackberries and spontaneous grain crops. This is an ideal habitat for sustaining local species, including Iberian partridges, hares, pheasants, little bustards, foxes, mongooses, wild boars, and deer.

Thrushes swarm through the surrounding olive groves and, even in winter, wood pigeons can be hunted, using decoys. This species has been plentiful in recent years, due to various nesting places on the estate. It is an impressive sight to see thousands of wood pigeons flying in and out of the estate, at dawn and dusk.

"(...) The local men are given to the practice of hunting, due to the abundance of partridges, rabbits and hares, while the women spin wool and weave linen cloth on their looms (…) In this Civil Parish there is a hunting reserve formerly known as Odiuelas, now renamed Santa Anna, which pertains to the Most Serene House of Bragança (...)"

"Historic Record of the Noble Village of Portel", 1730, by Francisco de Macedo da Pinna Patalim.
Manuscript presented to His Highness, the Prince, our Lord and Duke of Bragança, D. José, the future King D. José.

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