Portugal’s Douro wine region gets almost all the attention in the United States, but vintners up and down the country produce excellent wines. One of the loveliest wine regions, Setúbal, is less than an hour south of central Lisbon. There, on the edge of the Parque Natural da Arrábida, breezes off the Atlantic cool the vineyards, ensuring that grapes maintain their acidity as they ripen in the ample sun.
I organized our winery visits with Wine Tourism Portugal, which arranged for an English-speaking driver and a luxury sedan at a very reasonable price. The company also customized the standard Setúbal excursion for us to include a broader range of wines to taste than usual.
If you visit only one winery on the Setúbal Peninsula, make it the Quinta da Bacalhôa, now owned by the Berardo family. We started with a tour of the 15th-century palace, the vaulted basement of which displays impressive pieces from the Berardo Collection, perhaps the most important private art collection in Portugal. A beautiful pavilion clad in original tiles overlooks an exquisite formal garden and vineyards beyond. Back at the tasting room, we sampled wines that ranged from a tart but refined white blend to a ripe and well-balanced Merlot. The fortified Moscatel was delightfully light on its feet, and I loved the deep and complex 2002 Moscatel Roxo Superior, aged in whiskey barrels.
Nearby, José Maria da Fonseca maintains the historic family home and winery, despite the company’s having long ago outgrown it. The winery’s guide gave us a fascinating tour — including the dimly lit aging room festooned with cobwebs — and poured wines such as the sweet and spicy white Periquita blend and a chocolaty Periquita red blend. Again, the Moscatel Roxo was the star.
The much smaller Quinta de Alcube doesn’t export, but it doesn’t need to. Although the Serra family started the winery only in 2003 — cheese had been the prior focus — and does little marketing, the quinta routinely sells out of its wines. I can see why. The 2015 Alcube Reserva, a blend of Moscatel, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, felt almost Burgundian, and the 2013 Trincadeira/Syrah blend had impressive power and ample aging potential. The wines were especially fun to taste with the quinta’s excellent sheep’s milk cheese.