Herdade Do Esperao
(Tour of Portugal)
Thursday 4th November
When we arrived at our hotel (the Residence Bejanse) on the Wednesday evening, we were both very unsure about the choice. The reception area was tiny, with a small desk and a wee, old Portugese lady behind it. There was no lift and the stairs were painted and then covered by a narrow carpet. The good news was that Booking.com had made an error in our booking and had booked us into a room with a double-bed despite us requesting a twin-bed room.
The hotel was very accommodating and put us into their last two bedrooms, at no extra expense (so I suspect Booking.com will be paying for it somewhere along the line!). The rooms were fine but the internet access was lousy – and we still needed to book the next two nights accommodation. There
was however a lounge with decent internet access on the first floor – where there weren’t any guests – so we ended up moving down there with the bottle of wine and the laptop.
Breakfast was fine – nothing special, but filled a hole. All in all, the hotel was much better than either of us had thought it was going to be when we first arrived. And, for 45 Euros for two rooms for one night, neither of us was going to complain too much! Oh, and we did manage to book the next two nights accommodation as well . . . but that is another story!
Herdade do Esperao
Our first trip on the Thursday morning was to the Herdade do Esparao. This was the one tasting that we had spectacularly failed to organise in advance, despite numerous emails being sent. However, Ana
of ViniPortugal, who had been assisting us with our arrangements, was of the view that they were on the “Wine Route” and would accommodate us. And didn’t they just!
As usual, we were early and just for a change, in the process of getting lost. So we stopped at the tourist office in the local village (Reguengos de Monsaraz) and they provided us with a map in a leaflet (in English) showing us how to get there. The map was perfect and we arrived in next to time. As we drove through the vineyards to get to the “Enoturismo”, we realised that this was a much bigger establishment and was much bigger than anywhere we had been until then.
Just to get there from the entrance, it felt like we must have driven about five kilometres. It was a long treck through the vineyards – and it
was just vineyards, no oaks or olive trees to be seen anywhere, just mile after mile of vineyards.
When we eventually arrived at the Enoturismo centre, we were greeted by one of the members of staff, who quite clearly had not a clue who we were or why we were there. So, it was time for another coffee-break as they sorted it out.
After about 20 minutes, we were told that the manager who had received the original email from Ana of ViniPortugal was now working in their Brazil off-shoot. He had emailed the request for a visit to two other staff, but they were both in the Lisbon office and neither of them had forwarded the email to the actual winery. And then it was time for the tour and the tasting and, eventually, the lunch.
However, you look at it, Esperao is large: a total of 600 hectares, 400 at home and 200 in the
neighbouring area, produce 11 million litres of wine every year, of which one-third is exported. The estate employs 120 staff in the vineyards, with a total employment of 250. There are three winemakers, two Portugese and an Australian. The Australian is in fact one of the most famous winemakers in Portugal. David Baverstock has been in charge of winemaking at Esporao for the last twenty years and has a few “hobby” winemaking projects, including that of Cliff Richard in the Algarve.
While all you see on the route to the winery is vines, all you see when you reach the winery is the vast 100 hectare lake and the massive area of natural habitat in front of the winery. It is all quite picturesque. Given the quantities of wine produced each year, the winery itself is massive. For example, they have four tanks each of which has the capacity
to hold half-a-million litres; useful at the bottling stage! And then there is the bottling plant, which was in full stream when we visited. There are only two bottling lines but between them they have the capacity to fill 11,000 bottles every hour when running at full production.
After a tour round the winery, we were treated to a pre-lunch tasting of six wines. These included the Defesa 2008 white, the Defesa 2008 rosé, the Defesa 2008 red, the Esporao Reserve 2009, the Esporao Reserve 2008 and their special Vinho Licoroso. My favourite was of course the sweetie!
And then there was lunch – Davie’s downfall! To begin with, we were offered a choice of four different estate-made olive oils with bread: the Cordovil and Galega single varietals and the DOP Moura and Selecccao
blends. The Seleccao was definitely the best, but I did like the Cordovil, which was really green and spicy. Then the real food arrived: Octopus Salad with Vinha de Defesa Rosé 2008, Pan Seared Golden Bream and Esporao Wine Emulsion with Esperao Private Selection Branco 2008, followed by Slow Cooked Lamb Shank with small Potatoes and Esporao Private Selection Tinto 2007 and then Cheesecake with Strawberry Ice-cream and the Late Harvest again. Magnifique! Oh, and then there was coffee and home-baked cookies!
I did like the Esporoa Private Selection 2007 but Davie quite clearly loved the sweetie!
By the time we went for lunch, we had agreed that I would drive that afternoon, so that Davie could “enjoy” the wines with his lunch, which he did quite spectacularly if you ask me! After lunch, we had some time before
our next visit, so we had a bit of time to relax, which meant that I had plenty of time to learn just how difficult a car it was to drive. On the way over to Evora, I had time to stop and take a few photos of a lovely wee gorge. By the time I got back to the car, Davie was snoring merrily, so I just left him to it, which was possibly a mistake, as we discovered later while we sat in a traffic-jam in Evora at rush-hour.