A Grape Escape in Portugal

Budding wine connoisseurs and blossoming sommeliers… this one’s for you. This summer, restored 19th century farmstead hotel and winery São Lourenço do Barrocal in Portugal’s Alentejo is celebrating ten years of winemaking with a new immersive Wine Weekend programme.

Over three nights, the Wine Weekend promises the chance to learn more about the Alentejo’s rich oenological heritage and explore the thriving winery at the heart of São Lourenço do Barrocal’s regeneration. It’ll kick off with a journey through the ages with an archeological tour guided by local archaeologist, Manuel Calado, and resident winemaker José Rogel, where together you’ll explore the estate’s megalithic heritage, delving into the legacy of the Neolithic tribes who used to inhabit the region; the Phoenicians and Romans who are believed to have introduced wine to Alentejo; and the story of Barrocal’s original founder, Manuel Mendes Papança, who was responsible for the demarcation of the region as a winemaking area over 200 years ago.

With Barrocal sitting in the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve, come nightfall, an under-the-stars wine tasting awaits. Knowledgeable local astronomers will be on hand to help you spot stars, nebulae and galaxies in startling clarity (on clear nights, you can even see as far as the Milky Way), before a blind tasting of some of the estate’s first-class single estate organic wines.

The next day you’ll step into the shoes of Barrocal’s resident winemaker with a Winemaker for a Day experience. You’ll start by exploring the estate’s 15 hectares of vineyards on foot or horseback, learning about the estate’s organic production methods, before having the chance to create your very own blends to take away with you – the perfect way to enjoy a slice of Barrocal back at home. A unique tasting will let you sample a whole variety of wines at different stages of their evolution, including ‘raw’ mono-blends from deposits, wine taken directly from the barrel and some of Barrocal’s newest blends.

Ending on a high, on the final morning you’ll take to the skies for a spectacular hot air balloon ride at sunrise, gently floating over the winescape of Reguengos de Monsaraz, a glass of Barrocal’s sparkling wine in hand. Now if that doesn’t sound like bliss, we don’t know what does!