Pop icon rejuvenates Algarve wine

Pop icon rejuvenates Algarve wine News Wine News
  • Wednesday 6 June 2001

British pop legend Cliff Richard is being hailed as the saviour of the Algarve after reviving the region's moribund wine industry.

The ever-young 60-year-old singer (pictured, right), who has some 30 albums to his name and has hardly been out of the charts since his first hit fronting the Shadows in 1958, has owned various properties in Albufeira in southern Portugal since the early 1960s.

He now owns an exquisite farmhouse-villa just outside the town. Three years ago he employed respected Australian winemaker David Baverstock (pictured, left) to supervise the planting of eight hectares of Shiraz, Aragonez and Trincadeira. The 2000 harvest has just been bottled, and the first commercial release is planned for 2002.

Richard – who enjoys wine but is not an expert – is delighted with the first samples, which are high in alcohol with sweet berry and spicy characters, soft tannins and a long finish. 'It's wonderful,' he said on the terrace overlooking his vineyards. 'To think that I am sitting here drinking wine that was grown just down there – amazing.'

Richard's efforts have not gone unnoticed (or unrewarded) by the local population – he has been given the keys to the city of Albufeira. 'They know all about me out here,' he said. 'I've been given the freedom of the city, which is something I'm very proud of.'

In addition to his work with Richard, winemaker Baverstock is also employed by the biggest estate in Portugal, Esporão in Alentejo. He trucks Richard's grapes to a facility near there to vinify. The singer, buoyed by the success of his venture, is thinking of extending his vineyard and building a winemaking facility.

The project has caused a renaissance in the Algarve, most of whose vineyards (in four separate DOCs) have long been grubbed up in favour of luxury villas and beach resorts. Baverstock says the soil is well drained and the climate is perfect and there is no reason why the region shouldn't produce excellent wine.

And now – impressed by what Richard is doing – serious winemakers like João Ramos from Alentejo are planning to start operations in the area. Richard's vineyard manager Amandio Caldinha, whose family have owned vineyards for generations but now farm cattle, said, 'It is a victory for us.'

There have been rumblings from the local cooperative, which feels that it should vinify rather than have the grapes trucked north, but Baverstock insists the only reason he does this is so he can keep an eye on the whole process from his base in Esperão.

Richard hasn't yet hit on a name for his wine. 'Quinta do Cliff' was an early rejection, as was 'Cliffhanger', and it now looks as if 'Vida Nova' may be the choice.

'It means New Life,' he said. 'That's new life for here, new life for the Algarve.'

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