With South African flair, Carvoeiro’s Quinta dos S...

With South African flair, Carvoeiro’s Quinta dos Santos estate proves that Portuguese wine and beer really can mix

Quinta dos Santos , Algarve

By: Alexandra Stilwell 

Photo: Louise Golding | Joana Santos | Elayna Bartolacci 

Treasured roots

You can take the man out of the country, but not the country out of the man. Or, in this case, the family. After two generations were born in South Africa, a Portuguese family decided to come back to its roots to make the dream of living on a vineyard a reality. Since their arrival, they planted their own vineyard with Portuguese grape varieties and built a modern winery to which they added a twist: a state-of-the-art brewery.

This exceptional family-run business was created by Eugene and Ann dos Santos, who came to Portugal in 2015 and started their project from scratch. Located between Lagoa and Ferragudo, the winery designed by Ann looks like a classic Portuguese farmhouse to which large contemporary windows have been added.

In this unique setting, ancient olive trees contrast with whitewashed walls and serve as a dramatic centrepiece for the interior patio. Inside, two unusual elements stand out: black, Ann’s favourite colour, and hexagons, used to tell a story through all their designs. Ann explains that the gem shapes represent their “treasured project”, their “tesouro”, which is also the name of their premium range. Even in the winery, the large cement vats were designed in the shape of diamonds and painted black.

Ann explains how their adventure started: “My father-in-law was born in Alfama and moved to South Africa when he was 12.” Two generations later, Ann and Eugene’s youngest son, Greg, decided to move to Europe, and the whole family followed.

“Living in Cape Town, we had always dreamt of living on a vineyard, so when we moved to Portugal, we decided to buy something small and plant a little vineyard to keep ourselves busy… and it mushroomed into this,” she exclaims with laughter. “Greg decided to join us; he wanted to make beer. So, he did an apprenticeship under a German brewmaster in Cape Town, and we set up the brewery and threw him in.”

Now that the project is cruising, Ann and Eugene have decided to step back and let Greg take over. Today, he manages the 3.2ha vineyard, planted with Malvasia Fina, Sercial, Arinto, Verdelho, Touriga Nacional, Negra Mole, Sousão and Bastardo grapes – the latter two being rather unusual in the region. With this, he produces around 25,000 bottles of wine a year and will soon produce olive oil with the 1ha of new olive trees.

The first wine they launched, the Escolhido Red 2018 (€8), was made from imported grapes – Negra Mole, Castelão, Black Muscat and Aragonez. A very fruit-forward wine with soft tannins and notes of spices, available until a new Escolhido red, made with their grapes, is launched next year.

Escolhido may be their entry-level range, but it is made in small quantities with high standards. The rosé (€9) is a delicate and elegant onion-skin-coloured blend of Touriga Nacional and Negra Mole, with notes of grapefruit and strawberry, great salinity and acidity.

The white Colheita Selecionada (€10), a blend of the four white varieties, has a nice salty flavour coming through, resulting from the ocean breeze blowing through the vines and the soil’s coastal salinity and minerality. The Espumante (€13), the sparkling wine, is a Blanc de Noir made with Negra Mole, 100% fermented and aged in new amphoras. It has delicious brioche and pastry flavours resulting from the yeast, which has remained inside the bottle for three years.

With its sleek and classy labels, the premium range is the winery’s jewel collection. “We play around with the Tesouro range,” explains Ann. “We barrel this and amphora that, so it’s a little bit more creative and special.” The whites include a fresh Arinto (€21) with good acidity and notes of green apple skin and a Malvasia Fina and Sercial (€21) blend, more gastronomic than the Arinto, with butterscotch toffee and coffee flavours.

Among the reds, the Sousão (€32) is the crowd-pleaser. “It has a gentle oakiness that gives it jammy, plum and dark fruit flavours. It goes well with wintery dishes such as risotto or pork cheeks,” suggests Greg, who stresses that, despite its rich notes, it is not overly tannic and should be served at 15ºC.

Fermented and aged for a whole year in the old amphoras, the Bastardo (€28) is the only monovarietal red of this variety in the Algarve. “The 150-year-old amphoras are lined with pine resin and beeswax, with the resin giving the wine menthol and eucalyptus flavours. It has a high acidity, is light in colour, but drinks with a lot of complexity.”

Made to be served chilled, the Negra Mole (€24) is “fully fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks to highlight the purity of the grape” with its fresh cherry and strawberry flavours. Novelties for next year include a Tesouro Espumante, a new Negra Mole and more surprises in the winery.

Across the courtyard, Ann says they have upped the beer production. “It’s really growing.” Now that he is managing the whole operation, Greg relies on Matt Monteiro to run the pristine brewery, a fellow South African from Johannesburg who also has Portuguese roots. He currently produces six styles of beer: Lager, Pilsner, IPA, Pale Ale, Amber Ale and Stout, “using different malts and hops to get the flavour and style” they want, explains the brewer.

Adding to the dos Santos portfolio, the gin resulted from Greg’s ambition to make a gin “to easily make a good gin and tonic at home”. Three thousand bottles of the herbaceous gin were produced with 13 botanicals, and, according to Greg, “the perfect serve is Indian tonic and three slices of Granny Smith apple”.

All of these are served at the winery’s restaurant, A Esquina (The Corner), “the only corner space in the building”, points out Ann, to accompany a seasonal menu based on regional ingredients. “We are very local-focused,” she insists. “We only planted Portuguese varieties, and local flavours are served in the restaurant. We want to give a feel of the Algarve.”

The restaurant is also where tastings take place, Tuesday to Friday, twice a day, and range from a tasting with tapas to winery and brewery tours, proving that beer and wine really can mix.

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