On a clifftop between Lagos and Praia da Luz, Vinh...

On a clifftop between Lagos and Praia da Luz, Vinha da Falésia produces the fresh blends with a nod to local history

Falésia Wines, Vinha da Falésia, Lagos, Algarve

By: Alexandra Stilwell

Vines with a view

In Portugal, when it comes to vineyards with a view, there are plenty set amid the magnificent rolling hills of the Alentejo, the dramatic mountain landscapes of the Dão, or the idyllic banks of the Douro. But none have a more stunning and privileged view of the sea than the Vinha da Falésia, the southernmost vineyard in the country and, subsequently, the closest to the sea.

This 1.8-hectare vineyard, comprising red and white grape varieties, was planted in 2014 on a sloped terrain between Porto de Mós and Praia de Luz in the Western Algarve. Spreading down towards the Atlantic Ocean, above the Santa Maria cliffs, its unique terroir produces fresh mineral whites and jammy ruby reds.

The Vinha da Falésia, which translates to “Vineyard of the Cliffs”, was created by British entrepreneur Iain Brown and his wife Feann.

Their original plan was to establish a vineyard in New South Wales, Australia, but it was in Portugal that they built the Quinta dos Castanhos (The Browns’ Farm). The large property, which comprises the family’s villa, the vineyard and a winetasting cabana overlooking the vines, is set on a peaceful clifftop where sheep and goats graze in the next-door field, and the odd hiker can be seen wandering along the bordering hiking fisherman’s trail.

This unique south-facing vineyard is blessed with a fortuitous terroir where vines benefit from year-round sunshine, cool sea breezes and self-draining, schist-based and calcareous soil perfect for vines. “But we pay the price for being in this beautiful location, because we have hundreds of finches in the air,” says vineyard manager Louise Gallagher, who came to the Algarve 14 years ago and has been part of the project since its beginning. She explains that these nimble birds are particularly fond of the red grapes, which means they either have to place kites in the vineyard to keep them at bay or cover the vines with nets, “which isn’t very aesthetically pleasing”.

The bubbly vineyard manager goes on to describe how the vineyard is laid out. “As you look at the vineyard, on the hill, going up to the ocean, we have Sauvignon Blanc and Arinto,” making the most of the freshness of the sea. Closer to the tasting deck and next to the house are the reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Touriga Nacional.

The first Falésia wines were commercialised in 2019, “1,000 bottles of white and 1,500 of red”, recalls Louise, who explains that they are still growing. Because they lost some vines over the last few years, they had to replant a few. This year, they expect to produce around 2,000 bottles of white and 2,500 of red, almost doubling their initial production, and still won’t be at full capacity.

Winemaker and viticulturist Pedro Mendes, who is also a consultant for the renowned Quinta do Francês and Quinta da Penina wineries in the Algarve, has taken the Falésia Wines project in hand to guarantee the quality of the vines and the wines. The boutique vineyard’s portfolio includes the Premium Infante da Falésia range, a reference to Prince Henry the Navigator (Infante Dom Henrique), a central figure of the 15th-century maritime discoveries, whose portrait is featured on the wine labels, and the Reserva range.

The Infante da Falésia Premium White 2020 is a crisp and dry blend of Arinto and Verdelho aged in steel tanks. Presenting a delicate yellow colour with greenish hues, it has a citrus profile with hints of the terroir’s salinity and subtle nuances of tangerine, pear and peach. In the mouth, it is dense, fresh and has a persistent finish. The 2021 edition, which will soon be launched, is a blend of the vineyard’s Arinto and Sauvignon Blanc.

The Infante da Falésia Premium Red 2020 is an unoaked blend of the vineyard’s three red varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Touriga Nacional. A lovely colour concentration of ruby with garnet nuances. Its aromas reveal red fruit jam and aromatic herbs such as thyme and rosemary. A fresh yet concentrated red with long and smooth tannins.

There is also an Infante da Falésia Premium Rosé, a dry salmon-pink wine made with 100% Negra Mole grapes, grown by João Mariano of Quinta da Penina in Estômbar, who is also responsible for vinifying, ageing and bottling all of the Falésia wines.

Featuring the Santa Maria cliffs and a Portuguese caravel on the label, the red and white Reservas are the vineyard’s top wines. Having received 93 points in Decanter magazine, the Falésia Reserva White 2021 is a blend of Arinto and Sauvignon Blanc aged in used French oak barrels for six months to give it a delicious creaminess. Aromatic and complex, this vibrant straw-coloured wine has hints of tropical fruit, pear and peach on the nose and is powerful in the mouth, with lingering notes of almond, white asparagus and toast. It is dense and fresh with a persistent finish.

Although the Falésia Reserva Red 2020 has 16% alcohol, “it hides it well”, says Louise. Indeed, this powerful and jammy blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Touriga Nacional is a well-balanced deep ruby red. On the nose, it has aromas of stewed, ripe red fruits, dark chocolate, cassis, and spices, which are also found on the palate, along with a slight Atlantic salinity and long, silky tannins. Aged for two years in old French oak barrels, it requires a further year in the bottle before it can be launched, and will benefit from a few more in the cellar.

Vineyard visits and tastings are organised by appointment with Louise, who serves a selection of three wines accompanied by tapas on the cabana deck with a magnificent view of the vineyard and the sea.

The small production of wines is currently sold at the vineyard, selected wine shops, such as Mosto in Lagos, and various restaurants in the area, including O Camilo at Ponta da Piedade.


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