Alentejo Wine – The last great (re) discovery of Herdade de Coelheiros – part 1

My discovery of wine

The discovery and enjoyment of wine is a pleasure that I do not give up today. The enjoyment and tasting of a wine, the ritual and sharing the discovery of wine between family and friends is one of the most indispensable pleasures for me.

It was only in 2004 that I fell in love with Alentejo wines and, since then, I lost count of the number of wines I have already tried. But I remember perfectly the ones that marked special moments in my life and those that surprised me the most, lasting forever in my memory.

Sometimes, this memory is so perfect that I often fear to try this wine again because I don’t want to “contaminate” the perfection of that memory.

Alentejo wines

Wines of Alentejo have always been the ones with which I had the most contact and which have motivated my discoveries the most.

The influence of the environment I live in, the availability of access in the region where I live, the friends with whom I share them and the authenticity, genuineness, tradition and the unique characteristics of Alentejo wines have shaped my wine taste. They are always my starting point for comparison and reference for new national and international wine discoveries.

My first experience with Tapada de Coelheiros

The Tapada de Coelheiros Garrafeira was a milestone in my experience with wine.

Évora Cultural Experience - Alentejo Wine - Tapada de Coelheiros Garrafeira 1996
Alentejo Wine – Tapada de Coelheiros Garrafeira 1996

It was at the beginning of the millennium, at the Time-Out restaurant in Évora, owned by a great friend of mine who, during a dinner with friends, one of them, more knowledgeable and experienced in wine tasting, placed the order for our table.

I confess that I was curious about the exaltation and excitement with which this friend spoke of Tapada de Coelheiros. He was surprised to see it on a wine list in a restaurant in Évora because, being from Lisbon, it was not common, at the time, for the capital’s restaurants to make it available.

I remember the asparagus migas with fried spare ribs, served in clay dishes, but the moment of arrival at the table of this Alentejo wine, as if it were an essential guest, left the delicacy in the background, such was the excitement that this nectar had provoked at the table.

The label caught my attention because it is unusual. It had the design and pattern typical of Arraiolos rugs, a masterpiece of Alentejo tapestry and a serious candidate for UNESCO World Heritage in the coming years.

Évora Cultural Experience - Arraiolos Rugs
Arraiolos Rugs

This association made sense because the vineyards are located in the region of Arraiolos, close to the beautiful village of Igrejinha.

The color and complexity of the flavors were what most caught my attention.

I remember perfectly, at the time, taking a long time to taste the wine, because the flavors and color made me dazzling and fantasizing, trying to predict the taste in the mouth.

When, at last, I invited my mouth to “joined the party” I remember the smooth texture, without the astringent feeling caused by the excess of tannins.

The balance between the sweet and acid flavor was perfect, robust and full-bodied as is the tradition of Alentejo wines and persistent … so persistent that I still feel it today!

Time passed and once again, my great friend Pedro Ivo called my attention that the migas were cooling down!

Évora Cultural Experience - Asparagus Migas with Fried Spare Ribs
Asparagus Migas with Fried Spare Ribs

Time had been suspended, as it is today, when a wine makes me so delighted and surprised.

Finally, I dared to add the gastronomic factor to the test. Nothing combined better with traditional Alentejo asparagus migas at that time than that Alentejo wine.

It may seem like an exaggeration on my part but I remember all those details today!

Whoever really appreciates the gastronomy, the wines and the company of our dearest people, knows and feels precisely that this type of experience lasts forever in our memory and leaves us with a nostalgic smile and such an immaculate memory, which we do not want to distort in any way . Tapada de Coelheiros was part of one of my most wonderful memories regarding friends’ dinners and I wanted to crystallize all the delicious details of that moment.

The confrontation with my memories

I recognize today that when, in the spring of 2019, Dário Cruz, responsible for wine tourism at Herdade de Coelheiros, contacted me the first time for the presentation of the Herdade and to discuss a possible partnership, I received the invitation with mixed emotions.

The possibility of offering our clients from Évora Route of Bacchus Tour such a prestigious and exclusive brand of Alentejo wines was attractive and a source of great pride for the Portugal Cultural Experience team.

On the other hand, I was afraid to repeat my nostalgic memory of the first and only time I had tasted Tapada de Coelheiros. I knew that the estate had changed owners and I was sincerely unaware of the current state of one of Portugal’s great wine treasures.

When Dário contacted me again in the fall of that year, the visit with me and my partner and friend Diogo was decided. This (re) encounter was inevitable and I couldn’t wait any longer. We scheduled a visit to Herdade dos Coelheiros for December 2019.

I will share the outcome of the story in the coming weeks!

See you soon and… good Alentejo wines!

Ricardo Mendonça

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