Serra do Mendro, Rugged morphology and unusual landscape

The lands of the Serra do Mendro are rocky, with a rugged morphology and unusual landscape, with huge schist outcrops, in a place where daily temperatures may vary by as much as 20º C. In this respect, the zone resembles distant wine regions, such as Rutherford or To Kalon, in the Napa Valley, California.

Guided by a philosophy of deep respect for the natural resources, we preserve the less productive soils and integrate their different crops in a sound ecological manner, in light of the fact that fog and winds from the Atlantic ocean reach the slopes and the interior of the valleys at varying speeds, originates a wide array of microclimates and, consequently, micro-terroirs.

The grape varieties and diversity of the 32 microterroirs

We will start at the highest zone of the Serra do Mendro, offering views over a vast horizon, where we can contemplate in amazement the vast expanse of the Alentejo, including olive groves and vineyards, vegetable gardens, fields and the small towns and villages of Vidigueira and Beja. Then we pass to the plateau of the Aldeia de Cima, located between 289 to 300 metres above sea level, where we aim to explore the diversity of the soils with three vineyards: the Vinha da Família, Vinha de Sant’Anna and Vinha d´ Aldeya.

In order to uphold the typical regional characteristics of this warm region, that has been producing wine for over 2000 years, we have selected indigenous grape varieties that are perfectly adapted to the region, with 65% red and 35% white grape varieties, with a commitment to viticulture in an integrated production method that will later be converted to organic production. It is thanks to this multiplicity of natural factors, in a unique context of 32 micro-terroirs, that the profile of the wines of Herdade Aldeia de Cima has been traced in order to taste the Alentejo in a single bottle.

Grape Varieties

Red grape varieties of Herdade Aldeia de Cima:

Alfrocheiro

A red grape variety of unknown origin, it is most commonly found in the Dão region in Por-tugal, but is also very well adapted and widespread in the Alentejo. The hot climate allows good maturation resulting in concentrated wines with very good plant and floral notes that can improve the batches from a hot region.

Small berries and bunches. Cool and damp climates hinder maturation, but it is also sensitive to dehydration in very hot and dry climates or under direct sunlight. These grapes must be handled carefully to obtain the best results. Due to the ability to protect bunches within their foliage, the vines were planted in the hottest - but most ventilated - part of the Vinha dos Alfaiates.

Alicante Bouschet

French in origin, this grape variety is ideally suited to the conditions in the Alentejo, creating very good wines either as varietals or when added to improve others. Very well adapted and resistant to a hot and dry climate, this is the predominant grape variety in Vinha dos Alfaiates and planted in the more exposed and hottest areas.

Aragonês

Spanish in origin, this grape variety is recognised in many regions. In Portugal, it has been most common in the Douro Valley and Alentejo for many years. Highly productive, which could partly explain its popularity. It is most adapted to cooler areas, but the introduction of irrigation to vineyards has substantially improved its quality in hotter climates. When very mature, it creates well-structured and highly tannic wines with great longevity. In Vinha dos Alfaiates, it is planted in cooler micro-terroirs. In Vinha d’Aldeya, the number of vines in cooler areas has been increased.

Baga

Portuguese in origin, this red grape variety is most prolific in the Bairrada region. It prefers cooler climates and as a result, in the various micro-terroirs in Vinha dos Alfaiates, the coolest were selected, planted facing east to protect it from sunlight and to shield it from the high evening temperatures in west-facing vineyards.

Tinta Grossa

Portuguese in origin, this red grape variety is most popular in the Vidigueira sub-region, though in total terms the amount of land cultivated with these vines is small. Its planting on the poorest soils in Vinha de Sant’ Ana is a return to the region’s roots. It is a very vigorous variety but one that confers a wine with good acidity and elegance.

Trincadeira

Portuguese in origin, this red grape variety is very well adapted to hot regions, with the Alentejo being its most widespread region. Adds excellent freshness and a herbal character, adapting very well to poor terrains that increase concentration. Due to these characteristics, this grape is planted in the hottest parts of Vinha dos Alfaiates. Given its importance to the estate’s wines, the amount of the poorest terrain planted with this grape has also been in-creased in Vinha d’Aldeya.

White grape varieties of Herdade Aldeia de Cima:

Alvarinho

A white grape variety from the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula that is found most commonly in the Monção sub-region. Relatively unproductive but with excellent aromatic characteristics and very good acidity that helps to balance wines in hotter climates like the Alentejo. In Vinha de Sant’ Ana and Vinha d’Aldeya it is planted in the coolest soils.

Antão Vaz

Portuguese in origin, this white grape variety is most commonly found in the Vidigueira sub-re-gion. Very well adapted to hot and dry climates and highly productive. Adds freshness and complexity to the wines of this region. This is the most widespread and important white grape variety and is therefore very important in our vineyards. It is the only white grape variety planted in poor soils in Vinha dos Alfaiates, and is also planted in the cooler soils in Vinha de Sant’Ana.

Arinto

Portuguese in origin, this white grape variety is most commonly found in Bucelas, but is very well adapted and used throughout the country. In the Alentejo, it adds an excellent freshness to wines by virtue of its acidity and mineral content. This grape is naturally integrated into Vinha D’Aldeya, where it is planted in areas of cooler soil.

Perrum

Portuguese in origin, this white grape variety is most commonly found in the Alentejo and is integral to the appellation of origin of the Alentejo’s vineyards. It brings a natural acidity and low alcohol content that improves a wine’s freshness in hot and dry climates.

Roupeiro

Portuguese in origin, this white grape variety is most commonly found in the Alentejo. It is very well adapted to hot and productive climates, with its characteristics helping to give wines greater complexity. It is planted in averagely cool soils in Vinha de Sant’Ana.

The diversity of the four vineyards

With a unique biodiversity, the highlands of the Serra do Mendro consist of a unique expanse of schist from the Iberian Massif.

A team of geologists studied the geological heritage of the Herdade Aldeia de Cima, in order to choose the best terroirs to plant 20 hectares of vineyards in the Serra do Mendro, which separates the Alto Alentejo from the Baixo Alentejo and has its highest point in the Herdade Aldeia de Cima, 424 metres above sea level.

We identified four zones in the highest parts of the mountains and the plateau in the Serra do Mendro in order to obtain a naturally fresh micro-climate, in an increasingly hot Mediterranean climate. We planted 20 hectares according to the land level curves and divided them into 22 plots, most with fewer than 1.5 ha of vines per plot.

Vinha dos Alfaiates
18 natural microterroirs
in traditional terraces of 1 bard
in the Serra do Mendro

Starting with the highest plot at 380 metres, exploring the altitude and uniqueness of this rugged terrain, this is Herdade Aldeia de Cima’s most surprising and unusual vineyard.

The singularity of this rugged terrain, crossed by the Ribeira dos Alfaiates stream, has inspired the implantation of small vine terraces in the Serra do Mendro. A unique model in the Alentejo, the Vinha dos Alfaiates has 14 hectares and enjoys stunning panoramic views over the Alto and Baixo Alentejo.

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Its 12 highly typical vineyard plots have integrated production and average density of 2,800 grapevines per hectare, and potential average production of 4,000 kg/ha.

Implanted in zones with an irregular geometry, characterised by more or less rounded ridges, the vineyard has a gradient of 30% to 40% in over half of the vineyard plots, with altitudes between 300 to 380 metres above sea level, from west to east and an ideal solar exposure, allied to an unusual thermal amplitude, essential to endow freshness to the wine.

Bearing in mind all of these aspects, the aim is the homogeneous development of these 12 plots of east, south and west-facing vines swept by hot and dry winds. However, they are  affected by the altitude, the maritime influence of the Atlantic Ocean and the thermal range which can vary by 20ºC in a single day - one of the factors that sets the region apart - creating grapes of balanced maturation where the importance of the schist contributes to the great freshness and mineral content.

Serra do Mendro

12 hectares of traditional vineyard terraces

18 micro-terroirs

Grape varieties: 13% Trincadeira | 25% Alicante Bouschet | 18% Antão Vaz| 12% Aragonês | 8%Baga | 24%Alfrocheiro

Soil and rock/mineral: red, brown and yellow sediment soils with rocky fragments | quartz | clay | mica-schist | reddish schist | yellow schist

The Vinha d'Aldeya and Vinha de Sant'Anna vineyards have been created in the plateau

The soil in the plateau of the Serra do Mendro, next to the winery in Aldeia de Cima, primarily consists of schist-greywacke with nuances of green schist, which is unique in the Iberian Peninsula. The soil also contains granites, gabbros and quartzites which will influence the structure, perfume and body of the wines originated here.

The south- and southwest-facing slopes are excellent locations for the production of classic wines, rich, intense, concentrated wines with major solar exposure. The north-facing slopes are expected to produce wines with greater mineral intensity, freshness and fresh fruit, typical of wines cultivated in shaded areas.

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Vinha d'Aldeya

Mendro Plateau | Santana

4 hectares of traditional vineyard

7 micro-terroirs

Grape varieties: 33% Arinto | 30% Alvarinho | 13% Aragonês | 24% Trincadeira

Soil and rock/mineral: thick, loamy grey-brown soils with organic matter / rocky fragments |quartz | clay | green rocks | amphibolites

At the foot of the plateau of Aldeia de Cima lies Vinha da Aldeya, a heartfelt homage to the village of Santana and its people. On a plain enveloped by young legacy-marking cork oaks stand 4 hectares of vines arranged along traditional lines of 2.5m x 1m. Aided by balanced sun exposure, the hot afternoons are countered by the freshness of the soils, where small streams from the Serra do Mendro surround the plot and create a rich and harmonious ecosystem. The grape varieties planted, which also feature in the Vinha dos Alfaiates and Vinha de Sant’ana, reflect the search for the complexity and complementarity that the various terroirs infuse into Herdade Aldeia de Cima’s wines, making the oenologist’s work a challenging one.

The Aragon-ez and Trincadeira grapes (rootstock R110) will undergo longer maturation and create crisper wines compared to the grapes in Vinha dos Alfaiates. As for the Arinto and Alvarinho grapes (rootstock SO4), also planted in the Vinha de Sant’ana, the exposure and thick, deep soil will create more characterful and structured wines.

Vinha de Sant'Anna

Mendro Plateau | Santana

4 hectares of traditional vineyard

10 micro-terroirs

Grape varieties: 19% Tinta Grossa |43% Alvarinho | 19% Antão Vaz | 7% Roupeiro | 12% Perrum Soil and rock/mineral: loamy yellowy-brown soils with fragments of rock | quartz | clay

This vineyard sits in one of the valleys of the Serra do Mendro where the wind blows more gently and the sun is less intense. This is where, in an area adjacent to the estate’s winery, the crispest and most acidic grape varieties were planted, offering the perfect environment for their devel-opment. Alongside Alvarinho, Arinto, Perrum and Roupeiro, with which it is hoped to restore a crisp and somewhat forgotten Alentejo, Tinta Grossa was also planted in an attempt to return to the region’s roots and rediscover its distinctiveness.

Bearing in mind the mild orography, a traditional vineyard arranged in a modern style was iden-tified as the perfect model to install very carefully distributed stands in which the calibration of grape variety, soil and exposure are the predominant factors. The needs of each variety, as well as the concept of terroir, were studied to create longevity and sustainability and the rootstocks carefully chosen. In the deep, loamy and very fresh soils, the R110 rootstock will give greater resistance and ability to root, enabling regular and balanced plant growth. In this way, ideal conditions exist to create crisp and mineral wines that are quintessential of a region of supreme elegance and sophistication.

The Vinha de Família vineyard is a reproduction of ancient agricultural techniques, located in a plot of land of around 0.1 hectares next to the winery

Planted in a 1m square layout and using an archaic training system, based on goblet vine training, the vines - that have no wire lattice-work and display a “crawling” appearance - are surrounded by the same micro-climate. The vines’ vegetal system protects the grapes from the intense summer heat. The polychromatic plots, each with their specific propensities, provide a balanced and resilient vegetal puzzle that impedes pests and diseases. They can be worked with the assistance of animal traction, and minimal fertilisation, on the basis of annual planting of pulses, pruning, weeding and splitting.

It is a Mediterranean, humanised vine – exuberant and brimming with character. It aims to preserve the Alentejan heritage, that is closer to spontaneous life, with species that interact with each other, as if part of a giant family.

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Mendro Plateau | Santana

1000 m2 in bush form

1 micro-terroir

Grape varieties: 9% for each of the following: Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet, Antão Vaz, Aragonês, Castelão, Diagalves, Moreto, Perrum, Tinta Caiada, Tinta Miúda, Roupeiro

Soil and rock/mineral: thick, loamy grey-brown soils with organic matter / rocky fragments |quartz | clay | green rocks | amphibolites

Vinha de Família is a recreation of how farming used to be, bringing together on one plot measuring around 0.1 hectare beside the winery 11 regional grape varieties.

Planted in a square one metre across, in bush form, the vines are creeping and unsupported and look old-fashioned in appearance. They are inserted in a microclimate and protect their bunches from the strong summer sunlight with their own leaves. The polychromatic plots, with grape varieties of different aptitudes, provide a balanced and resilient plant obstacle against pests and disease, allowing animal-based farm labour, minimal fertiliser, based on the annual sowing of legumes, weeding, pruning and clearing.

This is a humanised, Mediterranean, abundant and more characterful vineyard designed to pre-serve the Alentejo’s close and spontaneous traditions with species that interact just like a family.

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