Zambujeiro is located in the town of Rio de Moinhos a town that time has seemed to have forgotten. Consisting of what I found to be 3 inclined hills it won’t be bother with road signs or other modern connivances, and thus I again had a chance to try out my failing Portuguese as I asked the first old man I came upon where the big winery was. A look of confusion slowly crept across his face as he upon hearing the word “Quinta” quickly directed back to the last turn in the road and up the other hill to the first big yellow and white building on the right.
Taking his confused look as an acknowledgement of my pidgin Portuguese, I moved on only to shortly thereafter realize the real meaning behind it. You see as I crested the hill moving out of the “city” I cam across what appeared to be a fancy garage with an even fancier house along side it. The confusion came from the “large” part of my question. Winery yes, large no. As I wandered around the perimeter trying to avoid the drizzling rain I was eventually spotted and greeted by Nuno the General Manager and assistant wine maker.
With a smile that helped warm me from the cold drizzle we started our tour of the winery/garage. Quinta do Zambujeiro is best described as a garagiste type project. For those of you who don’t’ know it was back in the late 80s and through the 90’s that Bordeaux’s garagistes took wine making to a new level. Their goal was to make the best wine around with worrying about quantity and focusing rather on quality. Critics like Robert parker praised their efforts though the eventual downside to this was the price spike that has occurred on the wines made by some of the early pioneers. Low quantities, and high quality are never a pocketbook friendly mix and thus garagistes are often the wines that never get tasted or explored by average Joe wine drinker.
Zambujeiro on the other hand has other issues. One it’s the playground of a Swiss wine lover who first purchased it in 1998. His goal, cut no corners, only make the best and have fun. In fact Nuno stated this was one of the most fun places he’s worked. With this attitude laid out he is allowed to welcome visitors to their property and try new things in the wine production. It also helps that their budget is tailored to the wine and not the profits.
We spent about 2 hours in total, though I’m not sure how, the entire property is probably a generous hectare in total. Fermentation tanks are on one side of the garage with the other side having two rooms set aside to age the wines in barrel. In fact most of our time was taken up with tasting from barrels. Personally I like the chance to taste wine still in its youth and in route to maturing to the point at which it goes into a bottle until it’s opened at another time and place. The problem being that from one barrel to the next the wines taste incredibly different. In fact the same wine from the same vines, vinified the same way can taste different from 2 barrels from the same wood from the same barrel maker. I want to stress and that we’re not talking nuance here, but big differences. This day though I was to try wines from the various vintages and from different grapes to get an idea of the wines produced.
The verdict? Big, bold, international styled wines with plenty of glycerin, alcohol, and fruit. My favorite style, no, but good wines, yes. These suckers are what half the wine world loves and the other half hates, their little monsters, and in truth under the right conditions I think I could enjoy them. More to the point though is that these wines show how the Alentejo is more diverse and able to produce more styles of wine than many outside observers might give them credit for. Also it’s nice to see Zambujeiro relying on traditional grapes for the production of its wines. Trincadeira, Tempranillo, Periquita and Touriga Nacional, along with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Alicante Bouschet to help with body and color.
The two top of the line wines Zambujeiro and Terra do Zambujeiro are what they focus on most hoping to produce these in small quantities to assure quality and in years with extra production or where there isn’t enough high end grapes for these wines they also produce a table wine called, Monte do Castanheiro.
The most exciting part of my visit was to learn how they are open to visitors year round. You might have trouble finding it, but they hope that you come to see what they are doing. I can honestly day they are some of the friendliest people I have met and they love what they do. Also it’s a great chance for novice wine enthusiasts to see what is being done on the smaller scale. Most often it’s the biggest wineries that people have the chance to visit and often they are not welcome at the smaller ones. Here they believe that they should share their love of wine with everyone who comes along. I encourage you to call them and see what they can offer you.
Quinta do Zambujeiro
D.O. / Region: Alentejo, Portugal
Address: Monte do Zambujeiro, Rio de Moinhos, 7150 Borba, Portugal
Telephone: +351 268 801 431
Fax: +351 268 801 233
Hectares of Vines: 30 hectares vines between 2 and 32 years of age
Wine maker Nuno Malta (General Manager) assisted by Luis Lourinho and the reputed Globalwine oenologist Alain Bramaz.
Total Production liters: 64,500L
Wines Produced: Zambujeiro, Terra do Zambujeiro, Monte do Castanheiro
Exporters in the UK and USA:: Almost all exports go to Switzerland through www.globalwine.com though a lengthy list of distributors can be found here: Zambujeiro Global Distributors
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