I spent a whole day exploring and getting to know Adega Mayor in Alto Alentejo
About 4 years ago I visited Adega Mayor for the first time. It was a great wine tourism experience, a visit with wine tasting and picnic in the water mirror that covers the design cellar. I wrote everything in this article! But the truth is that that day, felt like not enough…
I wanted to be in that place longer, so calm, surrounded by the Alentejo plain as far as the eye can see, a good fresh white wine and some tidbits in the garden… why leave?
This year I returned to this Campo Maior winery and the experience was much better and longer! I will tell you how I spent an entire day at Adega Mayor.
The opportunity to go back to Adega Mayor happened, this time, in the middle of the harvest season. As soon as I got to the winery, I was given a harvest kit with everything I needed to get to work: scissors, gloves, hat, t-shirt, water and a coffee cereal bar!
The plan that day was to harvest Touriga Nacional. So there I was, brave under a scorching sun, to fill three boxes of this red variety! Harvesting is fun work in the first minutes, then it’s hard… I really admire the people that do this every day, for a month or more…!
After work, I returned to the cool cellar, very busy at this time of year. I was guided by Francisco, wine tourism coordinator, and directly from the vat I tasted must of Viosinho, Gouveio and Trincadeira grapes. Some are still in a sweet grape juice stage, others are starting fermentation – already with acidity and some gas – others already with final alcohol (no longer sweet) or aging in oak barrels.
Tasting must directly from the vats at different stages of fermentation is a great experience and helps you understand how wine happens!
The tasting room was already prepared to receive me. A round table well composed of cheeses and cold cuts, bread, olive oil and homemade quince jam. All this to have along the 10 wines I was about to taste!
I tried the Seleção branco, Viosinho, Verdelho and Antão Vaz, all of 2019, the Arinto and Reserva do Comendador of 2018.
As for the reds I tasted Reserva 2018, Touriga Nacional 2018, Touriga Franca 2017 and Sangiovese 2018
Out of all the wine I highlighted the white Viosinho and the red Touriga Franca. I have always liked blend wines a lot more but lately I have been training my palate for single varietal and to get to know the most expressive aromas of each variety.
Viosinho had an excellent freshness without being too exuberant and clearly had aromas and flavors of vegetables and even fresh cut grass. Touriga Franca originated a dry red, with subtle notes of black pepper and dark chocolate.
And it may sound like I’m coming up with these aromas out of nothing, but the truth is that this tasting had a precious help of 20 glasses with potential aromas that are usually found in wines: uriped bananas, orange, cut grass, flowers, turmeric, cinnamon sticks and many others.
This is an excellent idea from Adega Mayor to help visitors taste wines and realize that each variety is different and unique!
And suddenly the morning became the afternoon but the lunch was still to come.
And what a lunch! It wasn’t enough that I had already stuffed myself with sausages and bread (and wine, of course) I still had a picnic waiting in the middle of the vineyard.
In the shade of the cork oak and overlooking the winery, there was a corner with Alentejo traditional blankets covering bales of straw, cold wine and a basket full of snacks! These had all been prepared by the Aperta restaurant in Campo Maior, also belonging to the Nabeiro family.
Guineafowl marinade, roasted peppers, Algarve carrots, plus a board of cold cuts, more bread and fruit salad, all paired by Caiado Rosé wine. At that moment, I couldn’t ask for anything more! I just stood there in silence eating, drinking and enjoying the scenery.
Before the sun went down, I left the laziness and the picnic behind and went to Herdade dos Adaens, where I was going to spend the night.
It is not a hotel, it is not rural tourism, it is not a campsite …. Herdade dos Adaens is a unique and special place. A place where biodiversity, respect and contact with nature are notorious and where resting is real.
The room I was assigned could have been a boat (which is also there) but instead, it was an old train carriage, still resting on its rails (and I was so happy as I’m crazy about trains!). Inside, no one would say that everything had been adapted from an old carriage as it had all the comforts and technology of a regular hotel room!
The rooms are all located around the biological pool. I had heard about this concept for years and wanted to try it out! It is a pool that simulates the natural habitat of several aquatic, vegetable and animal species. In this case, a small wall separated the area suitable for bathing – with green water and slime on the walls as natural – and the area where plants, fish, frogs and insects lived together and at the same time purified the water.
The description may sound strange to many people but I loved it! Swimming in water without chlorine or other chemicals, listening to frogs and the sound of different plants in the wind, was really good!
Dinner was booked at the Aperta restaurant and as I said before, it also belongs to the same family as Adega Mayor. The menu was in charge of Chef Henrique Mouro and more typically Alentejo couldn’t be!
I started with the white wine Antão Vaz, which I had already tasted in the morning – a grape variety with aromas of peach or white plum – which went very well with the fish dish of pikeperch, and the red was a surprise that came to the table: Pai Chão 2016 (without a label still).
Made with 80% Alicante-Bouschet – a red grape variety full of color and flavor – and with a 2-year aging in French oak, this is a full-bodied, greedy wine, with jam flavor but also with chocolate and spices. A wine that commands respect but that in no way intimidated the pork cheeks and sweet potato that accompanied it.
With a full belly and very happy face, I went back to the Adaens’ silcence, where the frogs around the pool croaked along with the night crickets.
And I slept so well!
This was the program suggested during “Harvest Mayor 2020” but for the rest of the year – and whenever the weather allows – even if there is no harvest, picnics can be prepared in the vineyard. Visiting the winery and wine tasting are also activities for the whole year.
But imagine visiting Adega Mayor in winter … There is also a lot to do!
Not only at Herdade dos Adaens there is a Honey Interpretation Center, which explains how everything happens with the bee, plants and combs, to get us to that delicious sweet, as the property also holds the Coffee Science Center (CCC).
I had already visited the center the first time I went to Adega Mayor, but I loved going back! Because there you learn absolutely everything about coffee. From the coffee plant, plantations around the world, the roasting of the beans, the coffee smuggling business with Spain in the 1960s, the consumption of coffee and the different machines and, of course, at the end, a coffee tasting. A well-served coffee, by the experts!
The CCC is interactive, fun and informative that is well worth knowing.
I would say that there is plenty of things to do in Adega Mayor and its surroundings, maybe one day it just not enough … but it’s a great start!