The winegrowing history of the Alentejo region has been built over many centuries. There are countless traces of civilisation associated with the production and consumption of wine in this territory, which gives us a legacy of knowledge and tradition that persists to the present day. The Roman legacy, although not the only one nor the first, is one of the most important for this region, especially due to the wine-making technique in clay amphorae, which is still used today by many producers in the municipalities of Vidigueira, Cuba and Alvito.
Despite this ancient relationship with wine, vine growing was not always promoted in the Alentejo. There were several periods of crisis in this industry, namely with the Muslim occupation in the 8th century, or later, in the 18th century, with the forced uprooting of vines by the Marquis of Pombal. The then Prime Minister of D. José had created the Real Companhia Geral de Agricultura dos Vinhos do Douro, which defended the wines of that region to the detriment of those produced in other areas of the country.
The recovery of the vineyards began in the mid-19th century and a golden age for Alentejo wines followed. A milestone of this period was the medal of honour won by a white wine from Vidigueira, Quinta das Relíquias, presented by the Viscount of Ribeira Brava, at the 1888 Berlin Exhibition.
Still in this period of bonhomie, in 1895 the first Portuguese Social Winery was created in Viana do Alentejo. The tide would turn negatively for Alentejo wines, with the region going through a dark period following the phylloxera plague and important social, political and economic events, such as the two World Wars.
In the mid-20th century, the Estado Novo (authoritarian regime) indirectly repressed vines in the region once again by creating a cereal campaign that aimed to turn the Alentejo into «Portugal’s granary». During this phase, wine production reprocessed and, with few exceptions, became a domestic production for little more than self-consumption.
Despite some efforts made in the 1950s and 60s to rehabilitate vines in the Alentejo, it was only in the 1970s that the associative movement truly managed to revitalise winegrowing in the Alentejo. In 1988 the first Alentejo protected designations of origin were regulated and since then the vast and differentiated Alentejo territory has gained prominence with its wines winning countless national and international awards.
Vineyards and wine shape the economic and cultural profile of Vidigueira. Vidigueira, Cuba and Alvito are part of a landscape that Fialho de Almeida called «The Country of Grapes».
Documented since the 13th century, Vidigueira’s existence today bears the marks of a history and heritage that extends over the centuries, deeply marked by the influence of the Catholic Church, recognisable in its chapels and churches. Since 1519, when the town was ceded to Vasco da Gama, it has maintained and celebrated a deep relationship with the imagery of the discoverers, being recognised as “the town of the Gamas”.
To the west of Vidigueira is Cuba, a town whose historical records date back to the 13th century, but whose occupation dates back to 3000 years before our era, with archaeological records confirming the existence of a megalithic civilisation. Just as the origin of the word Vidigueira seems to derive from «vine», the name Cuba is said to have originated after the conquest of the land from the Arab people, when a large quantity of “cubas” (amphorae) for storing wine would have been found. But this version, which once again associates the land with wine, is only one of the hypotheses for the name’s roots.
Also to the west of Vidigueira and Cuba is Alvito, a town whose earliest traces date its occupation to the Neolithic period. Described as a «curious Alentejo town», Alvito was, in the 16th century, one of the main political centres of the Alentejo, a grandeur still evident in its architectural heritage.
Vidigueira, located in the heart of the Alentejo, flanked to the north by the Serra do Mendro, to the east by the Guadiana, to the south and west by the plains, this village embraces the peace of the people and the soul of the land. From the character and warmth of the Alentejo, from the constant memory, knowledge and flavours, the landscape where the Winery lives is made.
Vine growing was a reality in the Alentejo in Roman times. Polybius refers to vine growing in the southern part of Lusitania in the middle of the 2nd century B.C. The grape pips found in the area of the wine presses, in excavations of the Roman Villa of S. Cucufate (Vila de Frades – Vidigueira) between the 1st and 4th centuries confirm the importance of vines and wine in the region.
During the reign of D. João II, in the 15th Century, Breton merchants often bought wines from the Alentejo. In the 16th Century, galleons laden with wine from this region often set sail for the Orient. At this time, Vidigueira and Vila de Frades were landlords of the Count of Vidigueira, Admiral Vasco da Gama, who was paid various rents for the vines. A 17th Century chronicler mentioned Vila de Frades and Alvito as some of the places in the Alentejo where the best wines were produced.
In the 19th century, Vidigueira, Vila de Frades, Cuba and Alvito were already part of the seventh wine region of the country. Through the history it undertakes and reinvents every day, deeply marked by the region that surrounds it and intertwined with it, the Winery presents itself as the heir to an entire culture of wine.
There are several grape varieties that contribute to the specificity of our wines: Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alfrocheiro, Castelão, Moreto, Syrah and Alicante Bouschet (red grape varieties), and Perrum, Roupeiro, Manteúdo, Arinto and Antão Vaz (white grape varieties), the latter being the one that gives the Vidigueira wine-growing sub-region greater recognition.
The origin of the variety name Antão Vaz is not known for certain, but curiously enough, it was the name of the grandfather of Luís Vaz de Camões, the poet who celebrated the discoveries and Vasco da Gama’s voyage from Portugal to India in «Os Lusíadas».
To date, it is only in the sub-region of Vidigueira that one can find old vines of the Antão Vaz variety, an autochthonous grape variety maintained by the region’s producers and producing a unique wine.