Located in the Lower Alentejo region in the southern half of Portugal, between Vidigueira and Cuba, lies the estate of Herdade do Rocim on 100 hectares, 60 of which are under vine. Alentejo is sparsely populated and, in contrast to the rest of Portugal, has many large estates. The climate is continental, with hot summers and cold winters. Having fairly reliable weather combined with the large plots of available land equates to quality at an affordable price. Wheat is the most important crop grown here, but olive trees, cork trees and vineyards are all important agriculture here as well. Wines from Alentejo are becoming popular as consumers realize the great opportunities available here, and quality is improving exponentially. It is thought to be the new world inside the old world, with highly professional wineries using a scientific approach while respecting the terroir.
The Rocim estate was purchased in 2000 by Movicortes group, which is a Portuguese company that specializes in agricultural machinery, but has its roots in farming and vineyards. Catarina Vieira, daughter of the late Jose Ribeiro Vieira, the founder of the Movicortes group, has been coordinating the development of the estate. Catarina believes that Alentejo has the unique conditions required to produce world-class wines. With respect for the terrior and the natural resources there, they produce a freshness and minerality in the whites and an elegance and complexity in the reds.
In school, Catarina studied Agronomy in Italy and Oenology in Portugal. Her love for nature was instilled in her from a young age. Her grandfather on her mother’s side was a wine producer and merchant at Cortes, and her grandfather on her father’s side was in agriculture and also owned several vineyards in Alentejo. Since purchasing, they have invested greatly in the land by completely regenerating the vineyards and building a new state of the art winery. With a complete overhaul of the vineyards, they were able to plant higher-quality varietals, including international grapes such as Syrah and Cabernet, as well as the indigenous and local varietals.
After the Viera family took over the winery, they made a conscious decision to not only invest in the land and produce higher quality wine, but to also invest and make sustainable contributions to the development of the region. The winery was built with the future in mind, and they have continued to make improvements. Catarina and her team strive to create wines that are elegant, complex and strong. Inspired by her love and respect for her grandparents, her father and her family, her connection with nature, and a true and unwavering passion for wine, Catarina continues to push the limits in what was believed to be possible in Alentejo. She believes that Rocim has great potential in producing high quality wines with worldwide recognition, and has hopes of expanding the brand under the umbrella of quality for the region. She has created a project that gives value not only to Alentejo, but to Portugal as a whole.
Responsible for a majority of Portugal’s fine wine production—and over half of the world’s cork production—Alentejo represents a major force in Portugal’s wine industry. This southern Portugese region is characterized by stretches of rolling plains and vineyards dotted with majestic cork oaks. Access to land enables the farmers of Alentejo to produce wines in great economies of scale, without compromising quality, compared to those regions to the north. The region of Alentejo indeed covers a third of the country.
Its classified (DOP) wines must come from one of eight subregions, where elevations are a bit higher, air cooler and less fertile soils are perfect for vines. The optimal regions are Portalegre, Borba, Redondo, Reguengos de Monsaraz, Granja-Amareleja, Vidigueira, Evora and Moura. Alentejo is not without the conveniences of modern winemaking as well. Irrigation supplements low rainfall and temperature control in the winery assures high quality wines.
The potential of the area has attracted many producers and its wine production continues to grow. Alentejo’s charming, fruit-forward wines have naturally led to local and global popularity.
White wines tend to be blends of Antão Vaz, Roupeiro and Arinto. However, in growing proportions, the white grapes Verdelho, Alvarinho and Viognier have been enjoying success. But red varieties actually exceed whites in Alentejo. Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet and Castelão grapes blend well together and are responsible for most of the Alentejo reds.
While capable of making a delightful Portugeuse dry white wine, great as an aperitif and for pairing with raw fish and oysters, Verdelho is also a major grape in the production of Madeira. While many less expensive Madeira wines can be blends of different years or grapes, including Verdelho, single-varietal Madeira represent the highest quality versions that also have long aging capacities. Sercial, Boal, Malmsey and Verdelho are the best Madeira grapes. Of the four, Verdelho is the most concentrated and smoky. It is dry, intense, spicy and is flexible in food pairings. Somm Secret—Like many other fortified wines, Madeira made of Verdelho can tolerate extreme aging and some rare bottles can still be found from the late 19th/early 20th century.