Herdade Do Rocim
(Tour of Portugal)
Day 1 - Tuesday 2 November
Flying from Edinburgh on easyJet, we arrived slightly earlier than timetabled, about 1:45pm local time. This seemed to be a good omen, especially as it was a lovely, bright sunny afternoon, with the temperature about 23ºC.
Sadly, the optimistic spirit did not last for long, as it took ages trailing around the airport to find our car-hire host. Davie Miller had booked through a German car company, whose local agents were Bravacar. Once we found the Bravacar rep, we still had to get the car and fill in the paperwork. Normally, that is done at the airport but not with
Bravacar. Bravacar were in fact “Thrifty”, who were thrifty by name and thrifty by nature! We had to go to their garage, which was about 10 minutes away in an industrial estate at the back of the airport. Eventually, we got our car, but the whole process took about 90 minutes, and we were meant to be at our first winery for 4:30pm.
So what about the car? It was a four-year old Seat Ibiza, having allegedly done only 44,000 kilometres but the state of the car would suggest otherwise. It had been very badly maintained. The clutch was so high it was almost jumping out of the car! The gearbox had Reverse, 1st, 3rd and 5th all on
the top. There was meant to be a gate between 1st and Reverse, but it was quite possible to engage reverse by mistake - not a good idea in a traffic jam!
I spent two days criticising Davie for his appalling driving skills, only to discover why he was having so many problems when I had to drive the car! Moral of the story – a cheap hire is indeed a cheap hire! Next time, I suspect we shall just use Hertz or Avis – at least you get a relatively new car from them, and it is parked just outside arrivals. The only saving graces with the car were that it had a MP3 connection, which meant we didn’t have to listen to Portugese radio, and there was aircon, which was very
much needed after the car (black) had been sitting around in the sun for a couple of hours!
Herdade do Rocim
Moving swiftly on, the first winery we had arranged to visit was Herdade do Rocim, a brand new winery near Portel in the Alentejo. We were greeted by Catia Campos and taken round the winery by Catarina Vieira, the resident wine-maker. In comparison with some of the other wineries that we visited in the week, it was a small operation, with 60 hectares under vine at present, expanding to 70 hectares in the next couple of years.
As wineries go, it was certainly the newest and most stylish of all the wineries that we visited,
with the whole winery laid out in a sort of cubist arrangement around the tasting room and restaurant.
Wines we tasted included the Olho de Mocho 2009 Rosé, Rocim 2009 White, Olho de Mocho Reserva 2009, Mariana/Chamilly 2008, Rocim 2009 Red, Olho de Mocha Reserva 2008, Vale de Mata Reserva 2007 and the Grande Rocim 2007. My favourites were definitely the Rocim 2009 White and Rocim 2009 Red.
The Grande Rocim 2007 was something else: very rich with a sweet nose but lovely dry palate and a crisp, fruity finish. It was a deep, dark, brooding monster, with lots of new oak and a mere 15.8% alcohol (although there was no alcohol burn!) Still very
young but built to last! Our first “Parker” wine of the week! We were treated to an evening meal in the tasting room, which was most enjoyable and very convivial.
We were introduced to the Alentejo speciality of black boar, in three different forms of chourico, together with local bread, olive oil and cheeses. Then there was dogfish soup, followed by a neck-of-lamb stew. The sweet was definitely that – large balls of sugar held together by egg! Excruciatingly sweet, if you ask me! During the meal, Catarina told us about the exceptional weather they had had over the past year. A very cold winter followed by a very long, hot dry summer.
Between 20 August and 20 September, they had endured a fourteen day “heat-spike” when the temperature was still 40ºC at 8pm. It did cool down a bit in the evenings but the vines suffered serious heat stress, with alcohol rising and acid falling dramatically. Global warming (or climate change, if you prefer) has come to the Alantejo!
After the lovely meal, Catarina very kindly guided us to the hotel that had been booked for us in Portel. As we drove along the road, we both reflected on what a high standard had been set for the rest of the holiday, with lovely wines, exceptional hospitality and gorgeous food, all in a stunning winery.