‘I’d much rather eat pasta and drink wine than be a size 0’ – Sophia Bush
I’d always thought that visiting a vineyard would be something I’d put on my bucket list until hubs pointed out that we have in fact visited one in Napa Valley in California in 2005 and then again in Northern Australia on Honeymoon in 2013. So I guess what that means is I’m a gal who loves her wine and will think of almost any excuse to visit a winery, even if that excuse turn out to be on the basis of fraud.
Staying at Uncle John’s cottage in the Algarve, the obvious wine choice would be to go and visit Cliff Richard’s gaff, but this is 2016 and word on the street is it’s up for sale now so thought we’d try out something a little less celebrity and a little more local.
We found Quinta do Frances on Trip Advisor, and it was handy that it was closest to where we were staying in Messines. Which brings me to finding the place. Whatever you do, do not follow your sat nav to get there, you’ll end up in the middle of nowhere (like we did) the Google Map on their website is pretty accurate, otherwise just follow the N124 from Silves and turn right when you see a sign for the winery. It’s pretty hidden away, but that just adds to its authenticity and charm.
We arrived, albeit 5 minutes late for our tour at 2pm, turns out no one else had booked that time so we had the place to ourselves. Tania was a brilliant guide, her English is impeccable and she took us through a brief history of he Vineyard, explaining that it’s relatively new and family run and owned by a french Doctor and his wife. The grapes they use to produce the wine (the red grapes are grown on the Vineyard but the white grapes are imported from France) are planted across 8 hectares of land and produce a signature white sauvingon blanc, a rose and a red, as well as a higher end white and two high end reds.
The tour then takes you inside and shows you the fermenting process and Tania talks you through the different ways each colour, and quality of wine is made. The barrel room in the cellar is particularly interesting as she explains how the wines get their signature smokey taste. Each barrel is used for 6 years and then discarded or sold on (Dave was particularly interested i this as he’d visited the Jack Daniels distillery whilst on his road trip around America who had explained they like to use old wine barrels for their Whiskey *starts singing The Circle of Life*)
The bottling room was a treat, showing how they bottle, box and label all their wines. Because hey’re such a small operation they rent a labeling truck that comes and does the labeling en masse however they do have a small label maker on site should they get and urgent (or important) order in that needs doing straight away. If you’re finding it hard to imagine what 32,000 bottles of wine looks like just think of the Newman’s recycle bin after a bank holiday weekend, or, just look at the picture below, whichever.
Once the tour is over it’s down to business and you get to taste the wine. Included in the tour is the 3 standard wines but you can pay a euro extra for each of the other wines you’d like to try (which of course I did, all in the name of research – Dave was driving, poor love). Its easy to see why these wines are all award winning, when your wine cellar at home is stocked full with Asda’s 3 for £10 bottles, your pallet really gets excited by something a little more high quality. What’s also refreshing is that their standard wines don’t cost the earth with their white, red and rose all coming in at around the 6 Euro mark.
Trying the higher end wines was a real treat for me as well and you could certainly taste the difference, not necessarily in quality, as they all taste good quality, but certainly in texture and flavour. Whilst the higher end reds were quite heavy, I could imagine them going perfectly with a good quality steak or some chocolate.
The price of the tour is a very reasonable 7.50 Euro which lasts about half an hour and includes a taste of 3 wines at the end. It’s certainy worth a visit if you’re in the Algarve and fancy a run out for the afternoon. They also have a roof terrace where you can enjoy some of your purchases (however there were no tables and chairs up their when we visited in June)
You don’t get the hard sell and aren’t obliged to buy anything after the tour. However, seeing as they don’t currently have a distributor in the UK, we thought we’d best buy a case of 6 (two of each color) if nothing else but to keep our Asda wine company.