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Posted by portugalpress on September 28, 2017

Quinta dos Vales wine estate in Estômbar is developing a new ambitious project – “the winemaker experience”

Aspiring winemakers can take part by renting a 225-litre barrel for a year, renting an existing vineyard or even planting a new one within the estate.

Michael Stock, the man in charge of the project, says the wine-making experience starts off easy.

“We begin with a bottle-blending workshop, in which a group of four to 12 people meet our team of oenologists and learn how to blend our premium red wines. It is important to understand variables such as the acidity and alcohol levels, the kind of choices that need to be made to produce a wine with light or strong tannins,” he said.

“We provide an explanation on how we, as professionals, go through this process and, later, the client will do everything, based on that technical information.

“For example, it is possible to learn how an intense Touriga Nacional can be blended with a Touriga Franca to create something with even more body. Or, for something smoother, they can try and make a lighter wine and find a balance”, he explains.

A minimum of one bottle can be made at the workshop, though Stock says three is ideal.

“One bottle is to be consumed straightaway, as we expect people will be excited about it and will want to show their friends the wine they made. We suggest drinking the other within six months and the third between 12 to 18 months later, to see the evolution,” Stock explains.

So far, the project seems to boast great potential.

“We did the first workshop two months ago, and the product is already on the market. There has been some interest, especially from tour operators,” he says.

“The clients we spoke to also enjoyed it and one client from the USA even wants to try this in a competition format. The idea is to create two teams, and, at the end, do a blind tasting to decide the winner, or our resident oenologist can act as the jury and choose the best batch.”

A private barrel

Starting your own private wine-production might me difficult and costly, but for those who would like to try it in a controlled and suitable environment, this could be an interesting option.

“This is what we call the barrel-blending experience. It will be a one-year long journey and the client will be much more involved”.

The goal is to rent a 225-litre barrel and create a wine according to the client’s taste.

“The main decision has to do with the wine treatment: whether we use French or American oak for example, or to use new or used barrels. The client will have to make these decisions, which are usually up to the oenologist.”

According to Michael Stock, this can be done from afar in case the client lives abroad.

“But it would imply at least four visits to the Quinta throughout the year, as clients must taste their wine every three months.”

At the end of the process, “the client may decide what happens.”

“One barrel turns out around 300 bottles, which is a reasonable amount to have in your wine cellar. Once the client is happy with their own production, we bottle it, create the personalised label and deliver it wherever they want. The idea is for the clients to feel in touch with the wine they made, as they will know what went into producing it”.

Regarding the project’s target audience, Michael Stock says “the client’s profile has nothing to do with nationality or age, or anything like that.

“It simply relates to their love for wine. We want to attract people who are interested in wine and turn them into producers.”

Vineyard plots for rent

The management at Quinta dos Vales believes there are also people who wish to see their own grapes grow, which is why they are renting vineyards.

“This is an even bigger step than the barrel-blending experience, and it will begin early on in the field. The client will have to decide, for example, how to treat the vineyard, what percentage to pruning in order to reduce the quantity and increase the quality.

“They will have to pick the harvest date, whether to pick the grapes that catch more sun, if it should have more sugar for a heavier wine alcohol-wise. The clients will make every decision for themselves, always with the support of our team of oenologists,” Stock says.

Vineyard sizes range between 2,000 and 8,000 square metres.

“It is what we advise in order to produce something substantial. There are no limitations. The only demand we have is that the rented vineyard does not interfere with the commercial production and the areas that are fundamental for us,” he says.

Expanding rural tourism

Meanwhile, Quinta dos Vales has also announced plans to expand its lodging offer in the north-side of the property. The plan comprises building 12 one-bedroom and 20 studio apartments, sharing a communal lounge area, pool, bar and restaurants.

The project aims to complement the current offer of villas and two-bedroom apartments.

“Imagine standing on the balcony, three metres away from the vineyard. It will be a fantastic view,” said Michael Stock.

The project has already been submitted to council and is awaiting final approval.

Construction is then due to start at the end of this year, with works concluded in the summer of 2018.

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