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Decanter’s Dream Destination: L’AND Vineyards, Portugal

Every month, Decanter selects a must-visit destination for wine travellers. This month, Fiona Sims recommends L'AND Vineyards, a five-star resort in the Alentejo region, complete with wild swimming lake and vinotherapy spa treatments.

Ancient, gnarly, cork oaks stand half-naked in the midday sun. And then come the vineyards, as far as the eye can see. Welcome to the Alentejo region. With its golden plains and rolling hills topped with white-washed villages and majestic medieval cities, the Alentejo grows most of the nation’s rice, wheat, barley and oats, supplies half of the world’s cork, and is the country’s biggest wine producing area. It’s also home to L’AND Vineyards, a wine resort around an hour’s drive from Lisbon.

Luxury around the L’AND lake

Opened in 2011 by the Sousa Cunhal family, which has operated an agriculture and forestry business here since the 19th century, L’AND Vineyards is enjoying a new phase. Set on 66 hectares near the small hilltop town of Montemor-o-Novo, it boasts a five-star hotel, two restaurants, a spa, stylish serviced residences (34 occupied, 13 under construction, 30 more plots available), vineyards and a winery. The resort is scattered around a large wild swimming lake, new for this year, along with several new suites and a new chef.

The lake is attracting a lot of attention. On an unseasonably warm day in mid-March, white fluffy-robbed guests sit clutching wine glasses on the long wooden pier that extends across the water. A guest ventures in, their gasps reaching diners’ ears at the hotel’s more casual waterside restaurant, Café da Viagem, where lunch stretches into dinner as the sun slips behind the ruined castle.

Joining the 10 original Sky View suites – so-named for their unique retractable roofs that allow guests to sleep under the stars, are 11 new Lake Sky View suites, with interiors straight out of the pages of Architectural Digest. With their black slate floors and glowing eucalyptus wood finishes, they were put together by Brazilian interior designer Márcio Kogan. Think Tom Dixon lights and hand-woven striped rugs from the nearby town of Reguengos de Monsaraz.

The original suites (with private plunge pools) have patios modelled on traditional Alentejo homes. The new Lake Sky View suites have fire pits, thoughtfully lit by staff just before you return from dinner, complimentary bottle of personalised wine at the ready.

Six hectares of vineyards surround the suites, growing grapes old and new – Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Alicante Bouschet and Syrah. Come September, they’re destined for the winery right at the heart of the hotel – the tanks clearly visible through a large picture window from the chic lounge area.

Terrace at L'AND Vineyards

Credit: Luis Ferraz / L’AND

Wine and dine

And it’s those four varieties that we meet again in the popular Make Your Own Wine experience. The entertaining session with well-versed head sommelier Gonçalo Mendes includes a blending exercise, which sees your own wine bottled and individually labelled, something the hotel also extends to Wine Club members, residence owners, many of whom specify their own vineyards. But it’s the estate’s own wines (usually nine, depending on the harvest) that can be chosen for dinner in its fine dining Mapa restaurant, now overseen by new executive chef David Jesus. Until recently he headed up the kitchen at Lisbon’s two Michelin-star Belcanto restaurant. And his food doesn’t disappoint, weaving in flavours and techniques from former Portuguese colonies and combining it with the country’s gastronomic heritage. Under a sea of Dixon lights (thankfully not all lit), flavours happily wander from Mozambique-inspired shrimps with spinach, peanut and coconut, to a winning Brazil-influenced dish of red mullet with corn and cockles, while we’re taken on a vinous journey that shows off Portugal’s individuality and array of indigenous varieties that few countries can rival.

To complete your stay, don’t miss the vinotherapy. In a darkened, scented, wood-lined treatment room, bathe in red wine (a Touriga Nacional blend) mixed with various fragrant unguents from Austrian brand Vinoble Cosmetics, to first soften the skin – a bunch of red grapes to nibble on the side. Then a vigorous polish with a grape seed scrub, followed by a grape seed oil massage – your immersion into Alentejo wine is now complete.

For more information visit the L’AND website.

L'AND Vineyards outdoor courtyard


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