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Old Moreto vineyards – a hidden Portuguese treasure

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The flagship indigenous grape of Alentejo’s Granja-Amareleja subregion.

Located in the heart of Alentejo, Granja-Amareleja is home to a unique patrimony of old vineyards of the indigenous red variety Moreto. These are a living museum of ancient viticultural practices, dating back 2000 years to the times of Roman occupation, and represent a key patrimony of this subregion – they are a piece of identity of invaluable importance, which local producers are determined to treasure, protect and promote.

A unique grape for a unique terroir

Granja-Amareleja is located on the left bank of the Guadiana river, with Spanish Extremadura across the river, to the east, and Alentejo’s dramatic expanse to the west. Blistering hot summers make this an inclement summer landscape, with the rolling hills dotted by old olive and cork trees. Globalisation is yet to taint this protected area of the Iberian Peninsula, where memories, traditions and popular wisdom support a perfect balance with nature and sustainable farming systems.

This is the backdrop against which old vineyards of the indigenous Moreto grape grow, farmed using ancestral techniques dating back to Roman times. They are true hubs of genetic diversity, with a minimum age of 20 years, planted ungrafted through massale selection (with cuttings from existing old vines) and bush or head trained. The naturally low yields mean that the fruit of these vines has concentrated aromas and flavours, resulting in expressive and complex wines.

The quality of Moreto’s fruit and wine is a product of the variety’s characteristics, highly adapted to the local terroir and with a long vegetative cycle, making it a particularly interesting variety in face of climate change. Granja-Amareleja’s terroir, however, is another important quality factor; hot long summers allow perfect grape maturation, while the local soils, with their ‘solão’ (an impervious underground layer), ensure permanent water availability. The region’s conditions are also naturally conducive to sustainable viticulture practices, further adding to the intrinsic quality of Moreto’s grapes.

Part of the region’s soul

It’s therefore not surprising that Moreto has become the flagship red variety of Granja-Amareleja, part of a deeply established winemaking tradition that includes the fermentation of wines in ‘talhas’ (clay amphorae) and the daily ritual of sharing a glass at wine taverns and cellars.

The first single-varietal Moreto wine ever released was the 2009 vintage of GA from Adega da Granja-Amareleja. Its wide acclaim paved the way for the recognition of the grape. Today, the cooperative winery vinifies more than 50% of the region’s Moreto grapes, many of which from old vineyards.

As the most aromatic of Portugal’s varieties, Moreto has a brilliant future ahead – not only are its qualities and potential being recognised and explored, but its ability to withstand extreme heat also make it one of the best suited varieties in a context of global warming.

The uniqueness and character of Moreto’s wines have warranted wide recognition, thanks to the grape’s intrinsic characteristic and the talent of winemakers. Vineyards, both old and new, farmed according to ancestral and sustainable principles, in harmony with nature and in a biodiverse pollution-free setting, are the crown jewels of Granja-Amareleja. A treasure well worth discovering.

Discover more about old Moreto vineyards

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