On the virtual pages of Notes From Esporão, we’ve taken you deep inside Esporão’s olive oil and fine winemaking production, given you a peek at the specially-commissioned art that adorns some of its wine labels, toured you through the beautiful and exotic biodiversity encouraged at their Alentejo site (such as twenty-five bat shelters), explored the mysteries (and histories) unearthed at the Perdigões archaeological project & historical artifact museum, and introduced you to the exquisite cuisine of Esporão’s celebrated chef Miguel Vaz Oliviera.
But those are, after all, just words on a (virtual) page; how would you like to experience all of the above, for real, in one place? It’d be kind of like The Avengers, only with more food, education, and great wine (and far fewer explosions… and no spandex super-hero outfits…).
Anyway, thanks to the recent completion of Esporão’s extensive, three-year, €3 million wine tourism project, now you can experience all of the above in Reguengos de Monsaraz, Portugal at the beautiful Herdade do Esporão site.
Razing a perfectly functional visitors center and successful tourist destination, and its adjacent and celebrated restaurant, probably wouldn’t have occurred as an option to most producers, but in this case Esporão’s intrepid CEO João Roquette had a vision of the future that was not going to be denied, one that would more closely – and tangibly – reflect his company’s values, in his words offering ”better conditions for customers, showing them how we make and ‘experience’ our products… this change will better promote wine tourism in Portugal and, in particular, at the Herdade.” The aim was to provide a place where lovers of wine culture and gastronomy could go for a crash course in the nature, beauty, art, history, wine, and food of Portugal and Alentejo in particular. The effort became 100% Portuguese national pride – only local / national materials and Portuguese architects and designers were used (right down to the clothes and uniforms, which were designed by Felipe Oliveira Baptista, creative director of Lacoste).
The theme of the activities now available as part of Esporão’s wine tourism project is “a day well spent” and I suspect after a day that awesome you’d be pretty well-spent in any meaning of the phrase; here’s a run-down of what’s now available to visitors:
- Production tours that include an in-depth look at the vineyards, wineries, cellars and olive oil facilities
- Estate tours (by foot, bicycle or jeep) and vineyard picnics that get you closer to the fauna and flora nurtured there, as well as their ampelografic site (which hosts 188 different wine grape varietals in 11ha of vineyards)
- Visits to the Perdigões settlements archaeological complex and the site’s artifacts museum in the Esporão tower (check out this article for more on that amazing site and its historic significance not just to Alentejo, but to Portugal and worldwide anthropology in general)
- Access to the iconic Esporão Tower and Nossa Senhora dos Remédios Chapel (both Portuguese landmarks) and the Esporão Arch, dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries.
That’s the kind of day that will require intense refueling, which you will be able to do at the site’s newly-designed restaurant, featuring dishes crafted by Miguel Vaz Oliviera in a newly-refitted kitchen and based on Alentejo’s heritage of gastronomy. As Miguel puts it, the cuisine is “a journey to the very roots of the region and the flavors of yesteryear, using the produce from our vegetable garden and the reinvention of forgotten recipes.”
Speaking of that veggie garden, it became a centerpiece of the design when it was decided that their enotourism was going to get an extensive overhaul. Herdade do Esporão now sports a two-hectare vegetable, fruit and herb garden that is farmed and picked following natural cycles.
The new restaurant doubles the site’s previous capacity (so you’re more likely to have an open table waiting for you when you visit) along with a wine and gift shop (so you can take a few things home with you to remember the visit).
Let’ see… nature, history, art, fresh produce, inspired regional cuisine, and some of the world’s best olive oil and wines… I don’t know about you, but that certainly constitutes a day well spent to me… now, where did I put that passport…?