It is not new that Portugal produces excellent wines, but it is always good to know that national specialties – among all those that exist – are recognized abroad. This time it’s the magazine Forbes who has chosen the best wines of 2019 and the list has two Portuguese in the first 10 places.
To write on the wines Barca Velha and Pêra-Manca (of the red in this case) obliges us, first of all, to make a remark: the Barca Velha is the Barca Velha and the Pêra-Manca is the Pêra-Manca. These are two Portuguese icons, but they are not comparable. Not only because they come from different regions (the first comes from the Douro, the second from the Alentejo). What distinguishes them above all is the history and importance that each of them has had for the respective regions and for the country.
Barca Velha was the first great Portuguese wine and continues to be the most renowned. The great merit of the Pêra-Manca is to have reached the role of icon in a few years, surpassing the old wines of the Alentejo of similar quality, as the Mouchão, for example.
It seems like a lie, but it’s true: Pêra-Manca, from the Eugénio de Almeida Foundation, is only 29 years old. It’s a baby, but it’s a baby with a long history, dating back to the time of Portuguese maritime explorations. It is a beautiful story, which tells us that at that time, in the Convento do Espinheiro (today a hotel), there were vineyards with a lot of granite stones that “mancavam”, because they are loose and oscillating. Over time, the term “pebbles” would have become Pêra-Manca. The wines would be so good that Pedro Álvares Cabral would have brought barrels of this wine during the expedition to Brazil. But, in truth, at that time, there was still no wine called Pêra-Manca. This wine appeared only in the nineteenth century and was produced by Casa Agrícola José Soares.
In 1920, with the death of the owner and the ravages of phylloxera, the wine was no longer produced. In 1987, the heir of the José Soares House, José António de Oliveira Soares, donated the brand “Pêra-Manca” to the Eugénio de Almeida Foundation with an admirable clause: the Pêra-Manca should be bottled with the best wine of the foundation. And the promise began to come true at the 1990 harvest. In less than 30 years, with only 15 harvests (1990, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 , 2013 and 2014), the Eugénio de Almeida Foundation has created an extraordinary brand, one of the few Portuguese wines that, at its price, matches the best wines in the world. It’s a huge feat, even in the Portuguese universe.