The first record of Herdade do Esporão is from 1267, the same date when the property borders were established. It’s these over 750 years of History that we have tried to preserve and honour each day. When I first got here, this place and all of the Alentejo were very different from what we see today, but I always believed in this region’s worth, and today it’s my home.
We realised over the years that it was important for Esporão to have a house open to all, where we could tell our story and the one of our wines and olive oils. A place where, every day, we share the details of our business, the vineyards that produce our wines, the casks where it ages, and the people behind all of this. That was the motivation behind the wine tourism project at Herdade do Esporão in 1997, one of the first of its kind in Portugal. Over 20 years later, we’re still here with our doors wide open.
Maybe most people aren’t aware of it, but Esporão is the best-selling Portuguese brand in Brazil. Someone told me the other day half-jokingly that Brazilians travelling to Portugal schedule two trips: Fátima (a religious pilgrimage site) and Esporão. This shows our dimension not only across the Atlantic but a bit all over the world. Those who are far from Portugal and Alentejo and buy our products are curious to know who we are and where the products they have at home come from.
All the vineyards and olive trees are certified as or in the process of being certified as organic. Despite the increasing climate challenges year after year, we stay true to our mission: making the best products that Nature gives us, responsibly and inspiringly.
Our story and mission
Professionally, I worked in banking for many years until there came a time when I honestly thought I had done all I could have in that field. I remember thinking there are many banks but maybe there’s only one Esporão, and I saw the potential of a long-term project in this land. I decided to take the risk, and 40 years later the connection to this place is still solid. Every morning I ride my bicycle through the vineyards with my dogs.
I like to look at the vineyard and to the olive grove and understand how Nature is playing her role.
The average lifetime of a vineyard, depending on the varietal, is around 25 years. It coincides with the renovation of a human generation. That means that in this business you must make plans at least 25 years in the future. If we make a mistake in the varietals we plant or the grapes we want to treat, it will be several decades before we’re back on the right track. I think that is the biggest challenge of a winemaking business, plus the climate change which is a very current issue and harder to predict.
Innovate with both feet set in tradition
In Alentejo, we welcome people with open arms, share our most prized possessions, always generously. First, I want to get the attention of Portugal and then the world: what we have here is very special. The landscape, the tranquillity, the environment, and the lifestyle are the opposite of what we see in the big cities.
The city of Évora, for its clear historical dimension, is worth the visit. Closer to us, and viewable from the Herdade, we have the villages of Monsaraz, one of the most picturesque in Portugal, and São Pedro do Corval, a village of potters with a very particular heritage. At Reguengos de Monsaraz there’s the Fábrica Alentejana de Lanifícios (wool factory) where they still produce the traditional Alentejo blankets, exported to the whole world.
Esporão turned Alentejo in the most important winemaking region in the country, and I believe we can see the priceless treasure that’s in front of us.
Recently, the castles in Portugal have been gaining attention, and both Alentejo and archaeology have played an important role in that field. Alentejo and the archaeological complex of Perdigões, in particular, keep ancient secrets of what life was like for our ancestors in Alentejo.
In addition to that, our region lives around the table. Local cuisine is very rich even when tradition begins to, unfortunately, disappear. The other day I ate a dogfish soup (“sopa de cação”) that I wish everyone could have tasted. Not to mention the sweets and desserts, of high-quality and incredibly diverse.
At Herdade do Esporão we have an ampelographic field that’s a sort of an outdoors lab. There are over 200 different grapevines planted in separate rows on that plot. The goal is to understand the potential of new varietals at a time when climate change brings us new challenges in a very near future.