Portugal’s most famous wine region may be the Douro Valley but the wine industry in the Algarve is growing fast. I was curious to visit wineries in the Algarve and see how the wine compares.
We decided to book a tour to try wine tasting in the Algarve with Algarving Tours. Let me tell you more about our wine tasting tour so you can decide if you want to do one when you visit the Algarve.
We did a half-day wine tasting tour. In reality, it is more than just a wine tour, it includes seeing cork trees, stopping in the town of Silves, and visiting a winery. Algarving Tours also offers a full day tour that includes visiting two wineries.
João, our tour guide, picked us up promptly at 9 am in our hotel lobby. He was driving a minivan with the Algarving Tours logo on it. We got in the van and were on our way.
Learning About Cork Production in Portugal
As we drove toward our first stop, João told us about some of the important industries in the area. First, we passed a golf course. Given the ideal weather year around I can see why it’s a popular area to play golf. Next, he told us about some of the important agricultural crops. The Algarve is known for its oranges and olives. They are beginning to grow avocados as well. Then, he started to tell us about the cork industry.
I have to admit, I hadn’t thought about how cork was made or where it came from. João told us that 50% of the world’s cork is made in Portugal. He took us to a spot where some cork oak trees had been planted. You can easily spot the cork trees because part of the bark (the cork) on the lower part of the tree has been removed. João gave me a piece of cork he found on the ground, it was a nice souvenir. He also showed us an acorn from the tree.
It was interesting to hear about cork from someone whose grandfather was part of the industry. I had no idea that it would take 25 years before you can harvest cork from a tree the first time. After that, you can harvest it once every 9 years. The older the cork the better the quality. It takes trees 65 years to produce cork that can used for wine bottles. Cork is also used in NASA spaceships and as insulation for houses.
Stop in Silves
As we approached Silves, there was a viewpoint so we stopped for a few pictures. From the viewpoint, the red brick Silves castle is an impressive sight. João told us how the 1755 earthquake had affected the area and the castle in particular. Even from a distance, I could tell the restoration work was amazing.
We drove into the town and made a quick stop to see some storks. The birds are pretty big and so majestic when they fly. Then we parked in front of the church near the castle which is at least 1,000 years old.
Inside Silves Castle
João led us into the castle and paid our admission (which is included in the price of the tour). Once we were inside the castle, João gave us an introduction and we had a bit of free time to explore.
While we were at the castle, we did some of the castle wall walk and visited the cistern. The views from the wall walk are stunning but you need to be careful as there are parts without a railing. I was impressed with the size of the cistern, it was probably larger than the one we saw at the Moorish Castle in Sintra. Inside the cistern, they had an exhibit about wildlife in the area. When the castle was in use, they would have stored water and grains inside.
Silves Castle also has a nice cafe, some exposed archeological sites, and a pretty garden. I would have liked to stay longer, but I was also excited to head to the winery.
Note: You can visit Silves on your own, it could be an excellent day trip, but I have to warn you the streets are narrow and steep. You need to be a confident driver. Don’t attempt the steep cobblestone roads when wet. If you go to Silves without a tour, I recommend parking on the outskirts of town and walking from there.
Visiting a Winery in the Algarve
João took us to the Quinta do Francês winery. In terms of wine, it is very new but quickly winning awards and gaining a good reputation. Patrick Agostini, who founded Quinta do Frances is a French doctor with a passion for wine. It’s a family run business and when they purchased the land on the Odelouca River Valley in 2002 there was nothing. Yet, they were able to produce their first wine in 2006 and built the wine cellar in 2008. Their Algarve vineyards now cover 8 hectares.
The view of the fields from the winery was spectacular even in the winter when the vines are bare. We took a few photos before heading inside for our tour. Tania, who works at the winery, showed us the areas where wine is produced, stored, and bottled. She explained all of the equipment and the different processes the grapes have to go through to make the various different wines. I was impressed that they still do some things the old-fashioned way by hand. One of these years, I would love to go back to help with the harvest. You don’t get paid but they do offer free wine. I think it would be a fun and educational experience.
Wine Tasting in the Algarve
Then it was time for our tasting. The tour includes a tasting of three wines (a white, a rose, and a red). You can purchase more if you like. We decided to also try two other red wines. Tania took time to explain the differences between each of the wines, what foods they should be paired with, and how long the bottles should be opened before serving. They provided a platter of meats and cheeses to accompany the wine, which was a nice touch and it was good to be able to try the wines with food. There was also a file of photos showing the history of the winery, from when the ground was first broken, to the present day. It’s an inspiring story.
We bought a bottle of the Odelouca Red to take back and enjoy at our hotel. They had a special the day we went so bottles were 10% off. If we would have had more space in our luggage, we would have bought more Algarve wine! The quality you get for the price is outstanding. You can order on their website if you live in Europe. Sorry, they do not ship to other areas.
Bonus Stops on Our Algarve Tour
On our way back to the hotel, João spotted his friend selling oranges by the road. He pulled over and bought us a handful. We tried them in the van. Even Russell who is not a big fan of oranges loved them. We took a few along with us on our hike the following day.
Then, João asked if we had seen the church overlooking the sea close to our hotel. I thought he was referring to the church in Armação de Pera, but there was another one. We made a quick stop. The church was stunning on top of the cliff, but I think the things that impressed me the most were the colors of the water and the beautiful empty beach below.
Algarve Wine Tasting Tour Review
We had so much fun on our tour and learned a lot too. You get to see a lot during the four-hour tour and the wine exceeded our expectations!
João was a wonderful tour guide. We appreciated his sense of humor, knowledge of the area, and excellent English skills. It was nice to learn about the culture and history in the region in addition to learning about the Algarve wine region.
About Algarving Tours
João is the owner of Algarving Tours. He is originally from the Albufeira area (where we stayed during our 2017 road trip in Portugal) so knows the Algarve well. The tours are designed so that you learn more about the region and not just drink wine. He keeps the tours limited to 6-8 people to make sure everyone is comfortable. João runs all the tours himself and even does all the driving.
In addition to the wine tours, João also offers a Lagos and Sagres Tour and a Cultural Photo Tour. He also does custom private tours.
Booking Your Tour with Algarving Tours
If you would like to do the wine tasting tour (or another tour) with João, it is best to contact him directly by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Tell him that you heard about the tour on Two Traveling Texans, he will give you a 10% discount.
Have you been to the Algarve? Would you like to take a tour to try the wine in the Algarve?
Disclosure: We were guests of Algarving Tours. All opinions are our own.