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Posted by portugalpress on August 23, 2018
Pedro Pereira Gonçalves and Pedro de Mello, president of Monte da Ravasqueira

The Mello family have been major players in the Portuguese corporate world for many generations, but only recently have they ventured into wine

Making wine has become somewhat of a trend in Portugal. The romantic notion of leaving the busy city life for hardworking yet rewarding manual labour has attracted many young couples and entrepreneurs, who found a new passion in agriculture. Unfortunately, most of them do not think about the more functional side of the business, crucial to make ends meet and, if ever, become profitable.

The Monte da Ravasqueira winery also started with one of these delightful stories, however it is also deeply rooted in the practical corporate world. José Manuel de Mello inherited this Alentejo estate from his father, who bought it in 1943 as a country retreat for the family. This is where he dedicated himself to agriculture and raised his 12 children, who now head his business empire, the José de Mello Group (which also owns companies such as CUF and Brisa), one of Portugal’s largest and leading companies.

Thanks to this enterprising family, Monte da Ravasqueira, which used to be a hunting lodge, is now one of Portugal’s most reputed up-and-coming wineries. Set in 3,000 hectares of idyllic landscape in Arraiolos, the traditional white “monte alentejano” (estate) with turquoise blue window frames is a well-oiled machine which also produces cattle, cork and honey. Year round, it opens its doors to wine lovers and tourists eager to discover and taste some of the region’s best produce, as well as visit José’s impressive private collection of 37 antique horse-drawn carriages.

Before his death in 2009, José aspired to make Monte da Ravasqueira a household name in the Alentejo. When his children took over the estate, they decided to honour their father by making his dream come true. They raised the bar when they hired Pedro Pereira Gonçalves, a young and ambitious winemaker who garnered experience in wineries in Australia, New Zealand and Chile, bringing to the table experience and know-how that few have yet harnessed in Portugal.

Voted young winemaker of the year in 2016, Pereira Gonçalves – who is now COO of the estate – means business and is taking Monte da Ravasqueira to higher ground with an exceptional range of premium wines with two goals: to show the best the estate has to offer and to make it a profitable business.
The MR Premium Red 2012 is a tribute to the Mello patriarch and is only released in exceptional years. Made with Syrah, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Aragonês, it is the only Portuguese wine that, in 18 years, has only had three vintages. Pedro explains that “the years in which it can be produced, the grapes are selected using precision viticulture”, which means that the richest and most concentrated bunches are selected plant by plant, using an aerial photography technique that he brought from Australia. With its dark red colour, this complex and intense wine with notes of black olives, cocoa and an intense mixture of black and red fruit and dried figs is undoubtedly on par with the greatest Portuguese wines.

The 37-year-old winemaker and his team are considered to be pioneers when it comes to making rosé. The MR Premium Rosé was the first of its kind to be produced in Portugal. Made entirely of Touriga Nacional, it is a delicate salmon-coloured, Provençal-style wine of superior quality. Aged in French oak barrels for six months, it has an elegant floral bouquet with notes of white chocolate and white cherries. Fresh, mineral and complex, it is in a league of its own.

As well as the Premium range, in terms of choice wines, there is also the Reserva da Família (the family’s vintage), which includes classic and timeless wines made with the best grape varieties in the terroir. The Reserva da Família White 2016 earned 96 points and a gold medal at the prestigious International Wine Challenge this year. Made with Viognier and Alvarinho, this complex wine is aged in barrels for five months. It is intense, with crisp aromas of lime, floral notes and a light touch of wood. A full-bodied wine, fresh and slightly creamy, it is persistent with a citrusy and dry finish.

These three top wines and the whole of the Monte da Ravasqueira selection – which includes an exquisite Alvarinho monovarietal and the superb Vinha das Romãs red – can be tasted at the estate, which organises special guided tours, tastings and wine pairing lunches. That said, if you want to taste them all, you had better spend the night in one of the 13 rooms available at the Monte da Ravasqueira, and enjoy a genuine Alentejo experience.