I may not be a wine connoisseur but I never dismiss an opportunity to highlight local, family-owned businesses. Like in any other industry, wineries come in every shape and size and it’s about time we focused on other wine tours in Portugal beyond Douro and Alentejo.
Since readers often ask me for suggestions of things to do near Lisbon, I did all the hard research and found an offbeat wine tour in Portugal that you probably haven’t heard about. Rota das Vinhas do Pó takes you on a semi-scenic train ride from Lisbon to meet and greet wine-producing families at the tiny village of Fernando Pó, 40 minutes from the Portuguese capital.
Spoiler alert: there will be wine, food, jam sampling, more wine, more food, cheese, and wine.
Starting Point: Oriente Train Station
I love trains and I love trains in Portugal. They run on time, smoothly, and they have free WiFi on board.
When I read the invitation for Rota das Vinhas do Pó, they got me at “train ride from Lisbon”. They didn’t need to convince me with wine and food. In fact, I had a pretty good feeling that the food and the wine would not disappoint.
The train hadn’t left the station yet and I was loving the environment already. We couldn’t have asked for a better tour guide than José Pequeno (who, incidentally, has a non-tourism-related day job. I kind of feel that’s the norm with people I’ve met since founding Tripper. Didn’t I tell you already how I love the stories I’m privileged to tell?). Noticing our slight disappointment with the view – the backs of suburban apartment buildings – he assured us that in a couple of more stations, we’d begin to see vineyards (which we did).
The Setúbal peninsula may be more famous for the beaches in Tróia than wine (unless you’re talking about Moscatel), but the region has been gaining some attention in the past years. Rota das Vinhas do Pó was about to show us around some of the more promising vineyards in the area.
There’s this (snobbish) tendency in Portugal to consider some regions are more appropriate to produce high-quality wine, but I don’t think the newer players should be left out of the game. Besides, considering that most of the land in Fernando Pó is basically sand (pó means dust so rota das vinhas do pó could translate into dust vineyards’ route), producing great wine here is challenging enough.
First Stop: Filipe Jorge Palhoça
At Fernado Pó train station, an orange-brick building not much bigger than a garden shack on a platform by the side of the train tracks, we were met by the Sado Arrábida minibus that would be driving us around the vineyards.
As we approached our first stop, the Quinta da Invejosa (jealous woman’s farm, in English), we could see the vineyards growing on the sandy ground. Before we focused on wine, we were curious about the name. Jealous Woman’s Farm reeks of family drama and there’s obviously a story behind it. But I’ll let you hear all about it when you visit, the intrigue and the family fall outs.
After touring the farm, they welcomed us with Moscatel and fogaças (a traditional sweet that locals used to bake in the shape of what they wished to be blessed by Santo Amaro – limbs for the sick and injured, plants for the crops, fish and animals for the abundance of food). While the resident oenologist explained us the characteristics of their Moscatel (that paired very well with the fogaças I will add), the owner filled in the gaps with the History of this 50-year-old winery, their future goals and how pleased they were with this year’s crop.
That’s the beauty of doing smaller wine tours. The owners are entrepreneurs who, inadvertently, become storytellers. It’s refreshing to hear about the struggles and the successes, that when you’re buying a bottle of their wine, you’re not just buying the final product. You’re buying a piece of that History.
Second Stop: Fernão Pó Adega
It’s a small village, so I bring you more family tragedy and intrigue. Okay, I’m exaggerating for dramatic effect, but this winery is owned by a member of the previous family (Palhoça) and a member of the family from the next winery (Freitas), married to each other. Am I the only one finding this exciting?
We were warmly welcomed by the owners and more food – tiborna (typical Portuguese finger food similar to tapas) paired with rosé wine. Technically, you should never drink on an empty stomach, so they weren’t just feeding us, they were providing an emergency service.
The background story of this winery is the quintessential Portuguese way of life. People would come here to buy wine for the year on the weekends and shared food and stories around the table before returning home. Just like we were doing.
After finishing up our tiborna and rosé wine and visiting the production area, we were in for another treat. Don’t you love this family already? Nothing could have prepared me for what came next. Are you ready? What if I told you they partnered with a local jam producer to create wine jam? Yes. Wine jam.
Three wine jams produced to match three wines called 1 (made from one grape kind only, Syrah), 2 (made from two grape kinds Cabernet Sauvignon and Castelão), and 3 (made from three grape kinds Merlot, Touriga Nacional, and Tannat). The jams are also called 1 (just wine), 2 (wine and strawberry), and 3 (wine, cinnamon, and ginger). In my humble opinion? Jam number 3 for the win!
I’ll be obsessed with these jams for some time.
Third and Final Stop: Casa Ermelinda Freitas
Ermelinda Freitas is a well-established wine producer in the Setúbal peninsula region. Just a look at some of the awards covering the walls at the winery’s museum, that we visited after lunch, and you know you’re in the presence of a successful brand. And, yet, it’s still run like a family business.
The winery has been run by women for four, going on five, generations. Considering my other project, this small fact struck a chord more than anything else. There’s an impressive collection of memorabilia and a detailed timeline at the Casa dos Afectos (House of Affection, in English) that exists to highlight the family side of the business.
But, besides the much-needed facts, I need to address something else that wrapped up this tour perfectly – the lunch, right before our visit to the vineyards and one final wine tasting. Over a clay bowl overflowing with caramela soup (a typical food for workers, made with different types of cabbage and beans, with a side of pork meats), bread, and, of course, Ermelinda Freitas’ wines, we shared stories, talked about more food and more wine, and Instagrammed our meals (as it is appropriate when everything is so photogenic).
After lunch, a tour of the vineyards almost made me an expert on the different types of grapes. Almost. Well, at least I know that the Castelão type is the most popular in this region and the one that better adapts to the climate and sandy soils. How’s that for a lesson learned at this wine tour in Portugal?
About Rota das Vinhas do Pó
- Every Thursday (9.02am) and Saturday (9.52am), from Oriente train station (please be punctual)
- **Price per person €75/US $89 (adults) and €51/US $62 (children 4-12) (includes train tickets, lunch, and tours to three vineyards)
- Minimum number of participants: 5
- Click to book [email protected] or call +351 916 153 202 (mobile)
- All details here: https://www.cp.pt/passageiros/en/how-to-travel/For-leisure/Nature-and-Culture/po-vineyard
**Prices may change over time. Please confirm prices at the time of booking.