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Best Luxury Beach Resorts in Europe this Summer

Posted by gen On July - 16 - 2010

It´s sizzling this summer in Europe and a few days on the coast are definitely in order! Some suggestions for luxury coastal hotels  by country:

FRANCE

chateau_eza 1

Château Eza- Eze: The ultimate French Riviera hideaway. Think lifestyles of the rich and famous, this charming medieval hamlet spills over a clifftop overlooking the Med. The small luxury hotel has a Michelin starred restaurant and Birdseye views over the sparkling sea.

best beach resorts in Europe

Hôtel du Cap Eden Roc – Antibes:  this hotels attracts the most beautiful, chic and rich jetsetters in Europe. Gorgeous setting.

best beach resorts in Europe

Le Mas de Langoustier – Porquerolles: Less bling bling than the Riviera, Porquerolles island in a natural paradise and has sublime views and a stay here is about the setting and the sea.

luxury sea side resorts Europe

Hotel du Palais- Biarritz:  The ultimate aristocrats playground. The Duchess of Alba is said to take a suite here for a month every year, and Russian aristocrats have been so enamored of this resort they built a Russian orthodox church across the street! Biarritz is located in the beautiful French Pays Basque, a hop skip and a jump from Spain´s gourmet Basquelands.  A stay here could pair well with some time in the Bordeaux wine county, or indeed in San Sebastian across the border.

GREECE

Best beach hotels Europe

Elounda Beach Hotel- Crete: wow, this is an amazing place located on Crete´s northeastern coastline. Highlights include the dramatic location, Chenot spa, and those sea view rooms..

ITALY

best beach resorts in Europe

Il San Pietro – Positano, Amalfi Coast: Few hotels can compete with San Pietro in Italy in terms of location and luxury. Located in the dreamy village of Positano, this hotel is a great base for exploring Campania. Must sees and dos include Ravello, Furore, a meal at Don Alfonso 1890, wine tasting in Irpinia, pizza in Naples, Pompeii…featured in our luxury tours of Amalfi Coast.

best beach resorts in Europe

La Plage resort – Sicily: Spectacular location in Sicily´s prettiest corner, Taormina. Really a collection of villas, tastefully tucked into lush gardens, this is a terrific choice for a few days by the sea. While in Taormina, don´t miss the Ancient Greek theatre and wine tasting near Mount Etna.

Best luxury beach resorts Europe

Il Pellicano – Maremma, Tuscany: stylish resort in southern Tuscany, attracting a real “it” crowd.   If you can peel yourself away from the pool scene, why not enjoy a luxury wine tour of the local Super Tuscans?

best beach resorts in Europe

Fortino Napoleonico – Marche: beautiful setting in undiscovered Marche, coined the “new Tuscany” by the New York Times. Unspoiled, amazing food here and dreamy scenery.

PORTUGAL

Best luxury beach resorts Europe

Vila Vita- Algarve: Moorish inspired design and resort is spread over 50 hectares of gardens and with inviting sea views. The kind of resort where if you want to stay in a cocoon, you have everything you need on site- various restaurants, spa, pools, etc. Tips in fine dining in the area here.

SPAIN

Luxury beach resorts Europe

La Gavina- north of Barcelona, you´ll find this graceful resort in an unspoiled section of the Costa Brava. White and airy, it has a 1920′s feel. Romantic outdoor restaurant with candlelight and piano… while in the Costa Brava, explore the Emporda wine country.

luxury beach resorts Europe

Marbella Club Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa – Marbella:  a resort for those looking for golf and sun y basta. It does golf and sun, and does them well :) If you have a craving for culture and a bit of real Spain, drive up to Ronda, a beautiful village with a terrific restaurant, Tragabuches.

Best of Portugal: See, Eat, Do- Ten Ideas

Posted by gen On January - 23 - 2010

Portugal is one of Europe’s genuine hidden gems, known more to Port wine lovers then to general tourists-at-large. But there is so much to see and do in this beautiful country!

Let us share some tips on ten things you must not miss on your trip to Portugal:

1. Port Wine Lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia- history, romance and stunning wines on offer just across the river in Oporto. While in Oporto don’t miss the Lello bookshop, Foz Velha restaurant and amazing Arabic room at the Stock Exchange.

Best of Portugal

2. The magnificent Douro Valley- one of Europe’s most untouched and achingly beautiful vineyard landscapes. The region is also home to world class estates such as Quinta do Crasto. Stay at the trendy and luxurious Aquapura and pamper yourself with Zen style spa treatments between the wine tasting tours.

Best of Portugal

3. Pena Palace in Sintra- a touristy town, but like Venice it is still DEFINITELY well worth the visit as just delightful. This palace is outrageous and beautiful. And the town is a true delight. Stay at the Penha Longa where stylish Catalan chef Sergi Arola is the consulting chef in charge. And go gourmet shopping at the Loja do Vinho.

Best of Portugal

4. The creepy Bones Chapel (Capela dos Ossos) in Unesco heritage town of Évora- wonderful town and strange but fascinating visit. This picturesque town is a must and if you had the time, we would stay at least 2 days to see it. Stay at the gorgeous Convento Espinheiro (a luxury Starwood property in a renovated convent).

Best of Portugal

5. A Fado performance in Lisbon- Portugal’s version of the blues. Singers Mariza and Misia have brought Fado to international audiences and Lisbon is full of intimate Fado venues (Cafe Luso, Clube do Fado, etc) where you can see charming live concerts over dinner and/or drinks. Interested in learning more about this unique musical style? Check out the Fado museum, also in Lisbon.

Best of Portugal

6.  Whale watching in the atmospheric Azores Islands- one of those “must do in a  lifetime” experiences- captivating and exhilarating.

Sperm Whale, Physeter macrocephalus, with open mouth,  Pico Island, Azores, Portugal, Atlantic Ocean
Sperm Whale, Physeter macrocephalus, with open mouth, Pico Island, Azores, Portugal, Atlantic Ocean

7. Alentejo wine country- personally, our favorite region in Portugal, if not Iberia. Expansive views reminiscent of the Sahara, punctuated by Arabic castles, cork forests and perfectly preserved characterful villages- oh, and some GORGEOUS wines.  The Alentejo is a very special place.

Best of Portugal

8. Pork and Clams (Porco com amêijoas)- sounds awful but it is a delicious regional dish to seek out, originating in the Alentejo. Recipe here.

chefemario.blogspot.com

chefemario.blogspot.com

9. Nazaré- authentic fishing village surprisingly unspoiled, and home to some of the simplest and freshest fish in the country. The best way to enjoy it is a simple lunch at one of the unpretentious beach shacks with ice cold vinho verde or even a chilled rosé. A nice break too, from the ubiquitous Salt Cod.

Best of Portugal

10. Batalha Monastery- Henry the Navigator is entombed in this spectacular, unfinished monastery, one of the loveliest in Europe. Nice place to stop while driving between Lisbon and Oporto, too.

Best of Portugal

Any time of the year is a good time to visit the wine country when it comes to drinking nice wines! But winter can be the most challenging season to visit as vineyards are dormant and bare (not lush and verdant, as in other times of the year), and many of Europe´s wine regions are covered in overcast and bleak skies. There are a few regions however that are just fabulous to visit in winter, and here are some nice ideas for wine lovers looking for that unforgettable winter wine tasting escape:

Winter wine tastings

Alentejo, Portugal

The Alentejo is without a doubt one of our favorite wine regions in Europe. This unspoiled and breathtaking region features soft, rolling hills studded with cork trees and Moorish castles and is spotted with colonial style wine “quintas”. The scenery in Alentejo is reminiscent of the romantic savannas of “Out of Africa” and in winter, you can expect bright blue skies and invigorating cold weather. For a winter wine tasting break we suggest you use the Unesco heritage town of Évora as a base, visit a few wineries and enjoy some long leisurely wine lunches in cozy restaurants with open fireplaces.

Wineries to visit: Esporão, Monte Seis Reis, Herdade da Malhadinha are all favorites and can provide (paying) tours and tastings if you contact them beforehand to set up the appointments.

Alentejo winery consortium:Vinhos do Alentejo feature all kinds of wine region info on their website for self-drive trips (in Portuguese).

Where to stay: Our favorite hotel is definitely the romantic and luxurious Convento do Espinheiro, just outside Évora.

More Info on the Alentejo wine region

Luxury chauffeured wine weekends in Alentejo

Alentejo wine region in winterAlentejo wine region in winterAlentejo wine region in winter

Sherry Country, Spain

Jerez de la Frontera, the main wine town in the “Sherry lands” is a truly delightful little provincial capital. The benefit here is that the wineries are right in the historic center so you don´t need to drive and you can taste as many wines as you like! Most are in walking distance of each other through the pleasant center. Sherry wines are varied (finos, amontillados, palo cortados, and more) and quite strong, perfect on a sunny and cold winter´s day. The ideal winter wine weekend in Jerez would include winery tours, an excursion to beautiful Seville (one hour by train), and a lunch at La Mesa Redonda.

Wineries to visit: Sandeman (our favorite for private VIP tours), Pedro Domecq, Bodegas Tradición, Emilio Lustau, González Byass (Tio Pepe)

Sherry winery consortium: Consejo Regulador Denominacion De Origen Jerez Xerez Sherry

Where to stay: Our favorite hotel in Jerez is the Palacio de Garvey (which made it to our top ten wine hotels in Spain hotlist). The Villa Jerez is another refined little hotel, out of the center in a more residential neighborhood.

More Info on the Sherry wine region

Info on luxurious wine weekends in Seville and Jerez

Winter wine tastings

Valtellina, Italy

The ultimate winter wine escape, Valtellina offers sunny blue skies, fluffy snowy mountains in winter and phenomenal red wines made with the Chiavennasca grape (cousin of Barolo´s Nebbiolo grape). The region is alpine, near the Swiss border and the perfect winter wine weekend could include winery visits and tastings, an excursion to pretty St Moritz (on the Swiss side) and an excursion by horse-drawn sled through the snow. The cuisine is FABULOUS, real mountain food and it perfectly accompanies the rich, velvety “Sforzato” wines.

Wineries to visit: None of the wineries have regular scheduled tours, so you will need to contact them individually to request a (paying) visit and tasting. We particularly love Nino Negri, Triacca, Rainoldi and Conti Sertoli Salis.

Valtellina winery consortium: Consorzio Vini Valtellini have information on the region, wineries and travel tips.

Where to stay: There are some wonderful spa hotels, perfect in winter. We love the Bagni di Bormio, a real destination hotel with wonderful soothing spa treatments and natural springs.

More Info on the Valtellina wine region

We organize luxurious chauffeured wine tasting weekends in Valtellina, more info here.

Valtellina wine region for winter escapes Valtellina wine region for winter escapes

Best of Oporto for Wine Lovers

Posted by gen On November - 6 - 2008

Taylor´s Wine Lodge Oporto Oporto Lugar do Vinho wine-bar

Oporto is a romantically fading city, similar in its crumbling down & atmospheric decadence to Havana. For Port wine lovers, this is MECCA! Despite the town being frayed at the edges and not gentrified, we simply love Oporto (called “Porto in Portuguese),for the people, the food, the wine…

And here are some of our favorite spots for food and wine lovers-

BEST WINE LODGES

Taylor´s- Gorgeous lodge complete with house and outdoor terrace overlooking the Douro river. Taylor´s are the original port aristocrats with a fascinating history dating back to the 17th century. The tour is excellent and you learn not only about port but also the barrel coopering and vine-growing. Read a full profile of this port lodge here.

Taylor´s Port Wine Lodge in OportoTaylor´s Port Wine Lodge in OportoTaylor´s Port Wine Lodge in Oporto

More info on Taylor´s

Ramos Pinto- Again, a beautiful lodge and a huge selection of wines to purchase and taste here. Ramos pinto has an excellent small wine museum as well. Read the complete profile of Ramos Pinto port lodge here.

Ramos Pinto Port Wine Lodge in OportoRamos Pinto Port Wine Lodge in OportoRamos Pinto Port Wine Lodge in Oporto

More info on Ramos Pinto

Graham´s- Of all the lodges we have visited, Graham´s do the best tour. Their staff speak 7 languages and the visit is very informative and tailored to your existing port wine knowledge. You can book the “simple” tour with tasting of three ports like white port, Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) and 10 year old Tawny OR you can book a VIP tasting of higher end wines in their range. They have a good shop with many wine books for sale, and a wine bar. For port lovers, you could stay the whole morning here!

Graham´s Port Wine Lodge in OportoGraham´s Port Wine Lodge in OportoGraham´s Port Wine Lodge in Oporto

More info on Graham´s

Other good ones: Sandeman (who have both a port lodge in Oporto as well as a sherry bodega in Jerez de la Frontera), and Rozés, both are open to the public if you contact them first and make an appointment. Sandeman tends to get big groups while Rozés is more exclusive. Cálem (owned by Spanish investors) has a fantastic new visitors center on the riverfront in Vilanova de Gaia, and Croft have a beautiful cellar with excellent visitor´s center for tours and tastings.

More info on Port

Portuguese Winery Profiles

Portuguese Grape Varieties

VIP Port Wine Tours

Port Wine Lodge Tours Port Wine Lodge Tours

BEST RESTAURANTS

Cafeina- Fun, trendy, young and chic.  Good for late dining, wine tasting (they do “wine flights” and atmosphere. Info here.

Shis- Elegant venue and hot chef (Antonio Vieira, formerly of Cafeina). Nice location on the Esplanade. Info here.

Presuntaria Transmontana 1 & 2- Our favorte place to go for the Portuguese version of tapas, called “Petiscos”. Rustic, cozy, highly recommended. they have 2 venues, one in Porto and the other in Gaia. Info here.

Dom Tonho- Perennial favorite, love this place. You´ll find tourists but many locals, and the owner is a hoot. Right int he Ribeira, very picturesque setting. Info here.

Bull & Bear-  Refined and classy, great tasting menu and wines by the glass. Info here.

Foz Velha- Pretty dining room, elegant and expensive, as in Bull & Bear they have highly recommended tasting menus and many wines available by the glass. Great! Info here.

BEST HOTELS

Oporto River Scene

5* Porto Palacio Hotel & Spa- Recently renovated, this Leading Hotel of the World is an extremely comfortable place to stay and a major benefit here is Helio Loureiro´s restaurant. Stylish, great service and top class manager here, highly recommended. More info.

5* Sheraton Porto Hotel & Spa- While Porto palacio is classic and elegant, the Sheraton is contemporary, for a younger design crowd. Great restaurant as well and of course that fabulous spa. More info here.

3* Hotel Boa Vista- If you are on a budget, then this is a good option with great seafront location by the Castelo. Rooms are only okayish, but the sea views and price are worth it. More info.

Coming next year- we look forward to the opening of the new luxury Yeatman Hotel Wine Spa in the current Croft wine lodge in Vilanova de Gaia. Due to open in December 2009, look out for it!

BEST WINE BARS

Solar do Vinho do Porto- Beautiful, old fashioned wine bar specialized in ports (in fact, they only have ports, but maaaaaaaaaaaaany ports!) run by the Port Wine Institute and housed in a mansion. Come here for a quiet glass or three of port. Info here.

Degusto Wine Bar- Total contrast to the Solar, this is a trendy and ultra modern wine bar, very “scene-y” and cool. Contact details here.

Bogani Café- Love it love it love it. Great views over the river, comfy and luxurious chairs on the terrace, this is a café serving wine rather than a bonafied wine bar, but you could not get better views. Fab! Info here.

Cafe Majestic- actually not a wine bar as such (although you can order wine here), but Porto´s most striking and truly “majestic” cafe, dating back to the 1800´s and absolutely GORGEOUS. A “must”. More info.

BEST SIGHTS

Livraria Lello- Yes, we are recommending a book shop, but not just any bookshop. This bookshop is the most beautiful we have ever seen in Southern Europe with a magnificent staircase, exquisite stained glass and many books in English on Portuguese wine and gastronomy on offer. This is a “must” while in Porto. You can also have a coffee and cakes in their cute cafe. Good profile and history of the shop here.

Palacio da Bolsa- The former stock exchange, this amazing mansion is TOTALLY  worth the visit. Don´t miss the Arabian room, wow! Wine lovers take note- the annual Essencia do Vinho wine fair is held here every February and is one of Portugal´s best organized wine events. Info here.

Serralves Art Museum- This contemporary art museum is also Oporto´s most famous Art Deco building and it is worth visiting not only for the wonderful museum but for its manicured gardens. Highly recommended and another “must”. Info here.

Casa da Música- Porto´s best venue for concerts. They run regular concerts ranging from jazz to classical, and if you are  a music lover as well as wine lover, then check out their schedule of concerts.

Art Museum in OportoBook Shop in Oporto

Ten Best Wine Hotels in Spain

Posted by gen On October - 28 - 2008

Hacienda Zorita Wine Hotel Spain

Spain is home to some of the most fabulous wine regions in Europe (including La Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Penedès, Priorat, Sherry, Toro, Navarra, Somontano, Rias Baixas, Ribera Sacra, Rueda and many other appellations)  and more and more the concept of a wine hotel (either a working winery with accommodation or  a hotel set amid the vineyards) is taking off.  A list of some of the best wine hotels in Spain to help you plan your next wine tasting vacation in Spain-

Hacienda Zorita, Salamanca

The Hacienda Zorita is a romantic and relaxing estate (part of the Haciendas de España wine hotel chain, leaders in wine tourism in Spain) to enjoy a weekend break near the beautiful city of Salamanca. Read a full review of the hotel here. More info on hotel here.

More info on Salamanca

Hacienda Zorita Wine Hotel Spain Hacienda Zorita Wine Hotel Spain

Hacienda Abascal – Ribera del Duero

Also belonging to Haciendas de España, the Abascal estate is located right on the “Golden Mile” in Ribera del Duero, home to such famed wine estates as Vega Sicilia, Arzuaga and Viña Mayor. The stunning Abadia Retuerta estate is around the corner, too, so this is a great based to explore some wineries for a few days. the Abascal has stylish rooms, a new and exciting restaurant called The Durius Café, run by mythical Spanish chef Sergi Arola. The views from nearly every point in this hotel are of vineyards and in autumn, it is simply gorgeous with the flaming red and orange leaves blanketing the plains. More info on the hotel here.

Hacienda Abascal Wine Hotel Spain Hacienda Abascal Wine Hotel Spain

Hacienda Unamuno, Arribes del Duero

 Hacienda Unamuno Wine Hotel Spain

The smallest of the Haciendas de España group, and most intimate located in the dramatic Arribes del Duero wine country near the Portuguese border. This area is a protected nature reserve and pristine, and for a romantic and revitalizing weekend or even week long stay, this could be a fantastic base to explore the nearby wine country (Toro and Ribera del Duero are not far, and you can easily do day trips into Portugal as well as the historic city of Zamora). The “hotelito” is located inside a beautiful historic farmhouse, and is named after the philosopher Miguel de Unamuno. The vibe is very artsy and plenty of stressed out professionals from big cities come here to relax. Apart from winetasting onsite you can also do cheese tastings and olive oil tastings from their collection of properties. The hotel can arrange romantic picnics and private dinners for two as well. More info on the Haciendas de España website.

Hacienda Unamuno Wine Hotel Spain Hacienda Unamuno Wine Hotel Spain

Can Bonastre in Penedès, close to Barcelona

Can Bonastre Wine Resort Spain

This luxurious wine resort has extensive manicured grounds, views of the Montserrat mountains, an in-house beautiful winery, fashionable bedrooms, and a gourmet hotspot restaurant (called Tribia, this is the best restaurant in the region at present and you can expect goodies like exquisite Arbequina olive oil, and Rosé Cava from the Can Bonastre estate). What more could you ask for? Oh, and they have helipads for VIPs as well! The perfect base to use while exploring the Penedès wine country taking in visits to big names like Torres and Codorniu and boutique cellars like Albet i Noia and Jean Leon. Highly highly recommended hotel!  More info on Can Bonastre here.

More info on Penedès wine region

More info on wineries in the Penedès

Profile of Barcelona

Can Bonastre Wine Hotel Spain Can Bonastre Wine Hotel Spain

Marqués de Riscal, El Ciego, La Rioja

The “ultimate” luxury wine hotel in Spain, here is our newsletter review of this stunning property designed by Frank Gehry (who also designed the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, among numerous other high profile projects around the world).

More info on La Rioja wine region

City profile of Laguardia, located about 5 minutes from the hotel

Marques de Riscal Wine Hotel Spain Marques de Riscal Wine Hotel Spain

Parador Monasterio de Santo Estevo, close to Ribera Sacra, Galicia

This newly inaugurated Parador hotel is FABULOUS and we used it as a base to discover the wine country of Ribera Sacra, Galicia´s most beautiful and undiscovered wine region.  The hotel is located in a historic Benedictine monastery that has been revamped with elegant and innovative decoration and the views from our room over the lush grounds are stunning. More info on hotel here.

Info on Santiago de Compostela, Galicia´s most beautiful town

Info on Rias Baixas, the most prominent Galician wine region

Parador Monasterio de Santo Estevo Wine Hotel Spain Parador Monasterio de Santo Estevo Wine Hotel Spain

Pago de Cirsus, Navarra

Navarra is one of the least explored wine regions in Spain and yet one of the most interesting. You have stunning medieval towns like Olite with its spectacular castle, and miles upon miles of unspoiled wine country. The exclusive Pago de Cirsus hotel is for lovers of the “buena vida”. There is a 16th century fortress, a high-end winery and an excellent restaurant (with a gastronomic focus on the best products of Navarra, especially vegetables). Expect beautiful grounds, luxurious rooms and a lovely garden. More info here.

Pago Cirsus Wine Hotel Spain Pago Cirsus Wine Hotel Spain

Palacio de Garvey, Jerez (Sherry Country)

Palacio Garvey in Jerez Wine Hotel Spain

Jerez is unique in Spain in that the bodegas (wineries) are located right in the historic center, whereas the vineyards are spread out throughout various provinces. So you can go wine tasting right downtown, by foot! We love the Palacio Garvey hotel as it is in a prime, central location and it merges its palatial architecture with contemporary and ultra stylish decor. The restaurant is EXCELLENT with good wine service. Apart from Sherry wines you can also taste an array of superb red wines from beautiful Ronda, also in Andalusia. The Palacio Garvey has many special touches from complimentary wine upon arrival, clawfoot romantic bathtubs, and four poster beds with sublime sheets. Highly recommended if you are visiting Jerez.

Info on Jerez

Info on Sherry

List of wine producers to visit

Palacio Garvey in Jerez Wine Hotel Spain Palacio Garvey in Jerez Wine Hotel Spain Palacio Garvey in Jerez Wine Hotel Spain

Pago del Vicario, La Mancha

In the vast plains of La Mancha, land of Don Quixote, a vinous Renaissance is taking place with countless new winery projects (many whose investments are in the multi-millions of euros) and things are-a- shaking regards to wine tourism. One of the most interesting winery cum hotels is Paco del Vicario, whose rosé is one of the most exciting rosés in Spain. The hotel is decorated extremely tastefully with rich colors (burgundy, cream, eggplant, beige, gold, so forth) and modern flourishes (there are a few zebra stripes here). You can visit the winery of course while staying here, dine in the excellent restaurant and visit other wineries in the area. The beautiful town of Almagro, known for its wonderful classical theatre festival, is only 30 km from here and an easy half day excursion.

Pago del Vicario Wine Hotel Spain Pago del Vicario Wine Hotel Spain

More info on Pago Vicario wine hotel

Palacio Canedo, Prada a tope Winery, Bierzo

Bierzo is the new “it” region in Spain, extremely exciting for wine lovers. It is also an unspoiled and very picturesque region located southeast of Galicia. The Prada a Tope winery is one of the oldest and most famous and they have an entire working farm making everything from wines to candied chestnuts to marinated peppers and much more. Whereas the other hotels in this list are quite luxurious and contemporary, the Palacio Canedo (the name of this winery´s rustic inn) is romantically rustic. The ideal time to come would be autumn, after harvest when the vineyards are at their most beautiful and when it is cold enough to light the onsite fireplaces.

Palacio Canedo Wine Hotel Spain Palacio Canedo Wine Hotel Spain

More info on Palacio Canedo

More info on the Bierzo wine region

More info on Leon, a nearby Spanish city on the Saint James pilgrimage route

General information on Spanish Wine Regions

Coming next year- Abadia Retuerta Luxury Wine Hotel in Ribera del Duero, this will be fantastic! More info here.

Alentejo Castles and Wine Alentejo Esporao Wine Estate

Portugal´s romantic wine region of Alentejo is a huge area stretching north to south, characterized by its soft rolling hills, wild beaches, cork forests and olive groves. Punctuating the landscape are an array of Arabic castles and medieval towns in surprisingly amazing condition. Alentejo is a beautiful region seemingly trapped in time and due to the history of the last hundred years (when most people abandoned the countryside for the cities), it is not marred by the nasty architecture or the 1960´s and 70´s that you find in other regions. It really does look like it must have centuries ago, and it supremely atmospheric. The most northern main town is Portalegre and in the south, Beja. The cultural epicenter of Alentejo is Évora, a Unesco heritage protected town with a whitewashed historic center, numerous stunning churches and treasures, and an Ancient Roman Temple, dedicated to the goddess Diana.  Driving around the region you will pass gentle hills and miles and miles of cork forests, as well as dry arid landscapes that look look like a scene in the movie “Out of Africa”.

Alentejo wine country Esporao estate Alentejo wine country Evora town

Alentejo is also the region making Portugal´s most exciting dry wines, real knockouts.  Expect “monster reds” and rich, heavy whites.  Portuguese grapes used in Alentejo include (WHITE) Arinto and Antao Vaz, and (RED) Alicante Bouschet, Aragones and Alfrocheiro. Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, international varietals, are also widely used. Leading estates include the superb Cortes de Cima, the one-and-only Esporão (who apart from excellent wines make amazing olive oil and cheese), Quinta do Carmo (owned by Bordeaux´s Rothschilds),  Joao Portugal Ramos, Herdade das Servas, beautiful Monte da Ravasqueira,  the lovely estate of Monte Seis Reis, and the fabulous Tapada dos Colheiros.  Alentejo has always had quite a massive amount of international investment and foreign flying winemakers and recent projects and additions include Sonho Lusitano´s Richard Mayson (ex- wine writer for Decanter magazine); Australian Alison Gomes at Azamor;  and Quinta do Zambujeiro (owned by Emil Stricker, a Swissman based in Singapore, how´s that for international??)

WHAT TO DO- Visit wine estates and do some touring and tasting (some are open to the general public if you book the visit beforehand) or contact us if you would like a private luxury chauffeured tour; stay a few nights in Évora and visit the outrageous and creepy Capela dos Ossos (Bones Chapel), taste some vinho in the enoteca right next door to the Pousada, and soak up the historic atmosphere; Don´t miss beautiful Marvão (one of our favorite places in Portugal!) with its castle and breathtaking views over the valley (there is a colony of eagles here); the whitewashed hamlet of Estremoz, with its many wineries; the ancient Jewish town of Castelo do Vide; the medieval castle in Évoramonte; the olive oil museum and castle in Moura; learn how to cook traditional Alentejo cuisine at the Refugio da Vila.

Alentejo Roman Temple of Diana  in Evora Estremoz detail in Alentejo

To visualize the region, here is a video (in Portuguese) that features top winery Esporão (an interview with the winemaker), and some great photography of this wine estate, the wine country and Alentejo

WHERE TO STAY- Without a doubt, the best place to stay is the gorgeous, luxurious 5* Convento do Espinheiro in Évora with a terrific restaurant, spa and sprawling country grounds; for unbelievable romance, lucury and escaping from it all (really, as this hotel is in the middle of nowhere!), the Pousada Flor de Rosa in Crato is exquisite;

WHERE TO EAT- “Must Eats” include the Restaurante Adega do Isaías in Estremoz, rustic, wonderful and “the” place for pork; the wonderful refined restaurant at the Esporão wine estate, Divinus restaurant at the Convento do Espinheiro hotel in Évora; for non nonsense trad cooking, Restaurante Sever in Marvao. Typical local dishes include Carne de Porco à Alentejana (pork with clams and cilantro) and “Migas” (breadcrumbs fried with chourizo. Check out info on Alentejo gastronomy here.

Castle in Alentejo Portugal Cork Tree in Alentejo