Herdade do Mouchão
In the early 19th century, Thomas Reynolds moved to Portugal’s Alentejo region from Oporto, chiefly to become involved in the cork business. Three generations later, his grandson, John Reynolds, purchased a 900 hectare property with two small rivers running through it: Herdade do Mouchão.
In addition to the family’s cork activities, he set about making wine. Vineyards were planted and in 1901 he built a high-ceilinged adobe winery (or “adega”) with white washed walls and a traditional red-tiled roof.
This elegant and functional building, the “adega”, shaded by tall eucalyptus trees, works much as it did when it was first built in 1901. Indeed electricity was only installed in 1991. At 6am, at the height of the summer, the cellar master arrives to open the windows and let in the fresh morning air. By 9am they are shut again to keep out the heat of the day.
The interior is cool and dark with beamed ceilings reaching 15 metres in height. It houses nine stone treading-tanks (“lagares”), which await the start of the vintage season. The thick whitewashed walls are lined with vats from 2500 to 5500 litres, pipes of 550 litres, and barrels of 225 to 300 liters.
Intense activity starts in late Summer. In the vineyards teams of pickers select the grapes into 20 kilo boxes for transporting to the “adega”. For red wine making, the grapes are then lightly crushed, without prior destalking, in one of 9 stone treading tanks (“lagares”), which have a capacity of 6,000-8,000 kilos each. For white wine , the grapes are destalked, crushed and fermented at low temperatures in stainless steel tanks.
Tradional foot-treading is done twice a day, encouraging fermentation and color extraction of the grapes without crushing the pips. This process typically continues for 5 to 8 days, after which the juice is racked off into wooden vats and barrels for secondary fermentation and settling. Residual skins are lightly pressed using the original presses from 1901.
In the ever-changing world of winemaking, Herdade do Mouchão remains a traditional, family-run winery focused on producing the very best Alentejo wines.