Luis Patrão - Herdade de Coelheiros

In this episode, I am speaking with Luis Patrão, director of enology and viticulture at Coelheiros, a stunning 800 hectare, historic estate, north of Evora, in the centre of Alentejo.

When I visited the estate, Luis gave me a guided tour to demonstrate how the 600+ hectare cork oak forest, 50 hectares of vines, and the 40 hectare walnut orchard are being transformed into a regenerated resilient, and balanced ecosystem that is simply glorious.

It wasn’t always like this. The estate had more of a focus on hunting, running all the way back to 1467. It was only at the end of the last century, that Coelheiros started to be transformed into what is now a buzz of biodiversity.

Luis explains how their biggest challenge has been small birds and bugs, that eat everything from the plants themselves to the fruit they produce.

Wetland restoration and ending centuries of hunting have seen the return of birds of prey such as eagles and falcons. These in return have driven away the small birds that eat the fruit, and the introduction of bats is proving effective at balancing the bug population.

Luis also talks about the increased use of grapes more suited to the climate. Alicant Bouschet is again a favourite for this purpose, where the berries have proven to be more resilient to heatwaves, as well as having a later ripening period.

A feature of this conversation is that Luis talks about the positive impact this process of ‘working with nature’ has had on the wine quality, which he describes as being “ more pure and with greater richness on the palate”.

This kind of readiness for the new cycles of hotter and intense climatic conditions mean that Coelheiros is one of the leaders in Alentejo in starting out on the pilgrimage towards a truly sustainable viticulture.

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