If you’ve driven along the N125 road between Lagoa and Estombar, it’s likely that you’ll have spotted Quinta dos Vales vineyard. It’s dotted with statues of voluptuous women (or ‘graces’, as sculptor and wine-maker Karl Heinz Stock has dubbed them), which are easily spotted from the road.
Is Algarve wine any good?
Algarve wine might not have a great reputation in the UK yet, probably because traditionally the region has produced high yield, low quality stuff (thanks, Salazar). But modern Algarvian wine is really coming into its own, with lots of local producers making a big effort to create fabulous wines. Aside from Karl Heinz Stock, no-one is more evangelical about it than John and Sheena of Grace Wines: the UK supplier of Quinta dos Vales.
Sitting down with them (over a glass of the delicious Dialog 2016 rose), they explained that the Algarve is all set to be the next great Portuguese wine region. It has a similar climate to the Douro, but the proximity to the sea adds an extra element of freshness to the flavour profile of each wine. Days are hot, so the grapes ripen fully and become super fruity, but the nights are cool so they don’t lose their zingy acidity. Basically if you like full-bodied and mouth-watering wines, the Algarve is a great region to discover.
What makes Quinta dos Vales special?
The Quinta dos Vales wine estate is pretty famous in the Algarve, and has won more awards than any other winery in the region. Thousands of organised tours and tastings take place each year, not to mention weddings and private events. At the moment they grow 15 different grapes and blend them to create 30 different wines, all with different flavours to suit a range of tastes.
Speaking to Karl Heinz Stock, his passion is absolutely infectious. To him, making wine isn’t about making money: it’s about making art. He makes art too, actually, creating beautiful ceramic sculptures of women and animals. The wine estate reflects his eclectic tastes, with a small petting zoo and lots of quirky design touches.
If you’re really into wine, you’ll be excited to hear that you can stay on the vineyard. Quinta dos Vales is home to some seriously luxurious accommodation that’s exceptionally well-reviewed on TripAdvisor (ranging from small apartments to a grand 6-bedroom villa with a private swimming pool). You can hold your wedding on Quinta dos Vales wine estate, too: strike a pose beside the touriga nacional.
What makes Quinta dos Vales wine different from the usual Algarve plonk?
To start with, it’s a sustainable vineyard. Disease management is handled by staff going in and rooting out infected grapes, rather than spraying everything with nasty chemicals. While some wine makers add artificial ingredients to improve the flavour of the wine in the adega, Quinta dos Vales cares more about terroir. They simply pop their reds into French oak barrels and waits for the magic to happen.
Where can I try Quinta dos Vales wine?
If you want to sample Quinta dos Vales wines while you’re in the Algarve, just pop along to the vineyard. It’s free to visit, and you can sample four wines for €5 in the farm shop. For a more structured, 90 minute guided tasting, you can email the vineyard to book your spot.
Meanwhile, UK-based readers will be excited to hear that Grace Wines have just bottled their 2016 Dialog rose for sale in the UK, produced at Quinta dos Vales. If you want to try before you buy you can catch them on these dates:
OFFICIAL LAUNCH 8th and 9th July — The Great British Food Festival at Kelmarsh Hall (Northamptonshire, NN6 9LY). They have the only wine bar at the event, so pop in and have a tipple and a chat.