23 April 2024, Adega Belém at The Big Fortified Tasting, Church House, London


Lisbon Urban Terroir


At Adega Belém, we take a distinctively urban and collaborative approach to viticulture, winemaking and distribution. We believe that great wines are made in the winery as much as in the vineyard. To be able to work with the best available grapes, we closely collaborate with the vintners of three quite different vine gardens in and around the city of Lisbon and accompany the grapes’ growth cycle throughout the year. We spent a lot of time in the vineyards and decide on the day of harvest based on the grapes’ optimal phenolic ripening. Our team of friends and family carefully hand pick the grapes in 20 liter boxes, which we then carry to the winery with the help of our old lady 1986 Toyota 150 Dyna. The grapes arrive at the winery intact. We do not apply sulfites or other additives at that stage, and let the grapes ferment spontaneously, mostly as whole berries to allow a slow progressive release of the sugars. We let the wines grow at their own rhythm so that they can develop into strong and vibrant personalities. We apply small amounts of sulfites before bottling as we do not want the wines to referment in the bottle or turn into vinegar. The sulfite levels are at about 30ppm, which puts our wines in the low-sulfite food category. This, in combination the use of high quality natural corks allows our wines to continue to grow in the bottle.


Caparide Valley – A Cloister Vine Garden on the Estoril Coast

Half of Adega Belém’s red wines are made from grapes grown in the Caparide valley located on the southern coast of the Lisboa peninsula, around 15 km west of the winery. This valley stretches from the beaches of São Pedro de Estoril to the foothills of the Sintra mountain range, which shields it from cool northwestern Atlantic winds. Calcareous rocks and fossil marine shell beds underneath geo-historically more recent sediments by the Caparide river have formed a water-retaining fluvisol with weakly structured soil horizons and a fertile topsoil; an ideal base for lighter red wines. The climate is Atlantic with cool nights and warm to hot days leading to an extended grape ripening period. The vineyard belongs to one of Lisbon’s oldest priest seminars and has been part of the historic DOP Carcavelos since its inception. It is today managed by a small experienced agriculture team, implementing a low intervention protocol, based mainly on ad hoc treatments against fungal grape diseases. There is no irrigation. We have also put a couple of scarecrow in the vineyard to deal with the abundant and gourmand local pigeon population.


Tapada da Ajuda – A Vineyard inside Lisbon

The grapes for most of Adega Belém’s white wines are grown at the vineyard of the University of Lisbon, located at the campus of the Instituto Superior de Agronomia in Lisbon’s urban neighbourhood of Ajuda. Located in the lower foothills of the Monsanto mountains, the vineyards face south and overlook the Tejo river. Shielded from the cool northwestern Atlantic winds, the vineyard benefits from a Mediterranean microclimate within an Atlantic region. Further adding to this curious situation is the selection of grape varietals grown here, mostly cool climate grapes including Encruzado, Moscatel Gaelgo, and Alvarinho that call the North of Portugal home. The ripening period starts very early and harvests as well are usually already in full swing when most of Portugal is still in summer holiday at the beaches of Algarve. The soils are rich in old calcareous rocks covered by loamy silt deposits transported here by the Tejo river and the wind. The vineyards are managed by a professional agriculture team implementing a low intervention protocol, based mainly on ad hoc anti-fungal treatments, punctual irrigation and the physical protection of grapes via nets.


Bemposta em Alenquer – Portugal’s Napa valley

The grapes of the more intense red wines produced by Adega Belém – Rabo da Rainha Grande Reserva 2020 and Lili 2020 – are grown in a vineyard next to the River Ota in the DOP region of Alenquer, about half an hour drive northeast from the winery along the river Tejo. The main varieties grown here are Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouschet and Castelão. The soil is mainly formed by silt sediments from the Tejo and Ota rivers, with a deeper calcareous underground. Benefiting from the cool breeze of the Atlantic during the night and early morning, while being exposed to full sunshine from mid day, the grapes profit from a prolonged ripening period and optimal phenolic ripeness in most years. The vineyard is managed by a team of experienced viticulturists and applies a minimal intervention approach, mainly based on ad hoc treatments against fungi and pests. The vineyard does not use an irrigation system.