A brief recap: Since arriving at Ocean Villas Luz in August 2020, our resident writer David Lugg has been experiencing all aspects of Luz Life. This is his September 2022 review:
Summer has reluctantly given way to Autumn, but here in Praia da Luz, there is a sense of relief. It has been a busy, bustling season which has brought boundless joy to a lot of people, but, eventually, batteries begin to run a little low and even the most diligent amongst us need a break. In fact, I think we all deserve a drink. Mercifully, the onset of Autumn offers the perfect tonic. Perhaps even the perfect gin and tonic. I’ll explain about that later.
If you think of the Algarve, it is likely that you have created an image of strawberry sunsets and vanilla beaches, but it also does a pretty good job of strawberry daquiris and crisp white wines. The region might not have the iconic history of a Taylor’s port or a Madeira wine, but it is an area that is growing rapidly. Here is an insight of what you can expect if you would like to sample the local alcoholic produce.
First up, Algarve wines. Traditionally, red wine has been the region’s forte due to its warm climate, with a nestled position in the shelter of the Monchique mountains. Three of the most common grape varieties are the Castelão, Crato Branco and Negra Mole. Whilst the region boasts around 2000 vineyards, it is not uncommon to see locals growing grapes in their garden or on an arbor. On a commercial level, there are around 30 wine producers, some of which allow access to guests for tastings.
Though not considered to be as high quality as their red counterparts, the Algarvian white wines can be delicious too. Perfect for summer evenings on the Ocean Villas terrace, the most common grape varieties are Arinto and Siria. If you’d like to sample some splendid local wines, we can arrange a tasting session at nearby Quinta dos Santos which offers marvellous views over their extensive vineyards. They also have an on-site brewery which brings me nicely to our second category.
Algarve beers. Although the region has been slow in its inception of good-quality beer, the hop-driven cogs are slowly beginning to turn. Our friends at Quinta dos Santos are one of the market leaders producing a fine range of pale ales, stouts and lagers. In nearby Lagos, Mania Brewery offers a whacky but wonderful selection, such as the Portuguese Man O’ War IPA and the Black Hole Sun – a stout that includes a surprisingly delicious fusion of black pepper and marmite.
For something a little different, head to the hills of Monchique to try the best of the region’s medronho. For those not in the know, the Medronho fruit grows on trees found across much of the rural Mediterranean and here in the Algarve. It is used in jams and cakes, but its primary purpose is a rather potent alcoholic drink, akin to a plum brandy. The quality can vary but my advice, if you value your own throat, is to pay a little more for better quality – you won’t regret it!
So, what about the (aforementioned) perfect gin and tonic? Well, this is a tipple that is still in its infancy in the Algarve, but our friends at A Fabrica restaurant have recently started their own distillery. You won’t be too surprised to learn that I have sampled their delights (Alma gin) on a number of occasions and it makes an excellent aperitif. Highly recommended.
If, after sampling all of the above, you’re still standing, then why not finish off the experience with a ginjinha – a sweet cherry liquor similar to a fortified wine. It’s an acquired taste but when in Rome and all that all. Mercifully, when you wake the following morning, the Algarvians are big fans of strong coffee to get you back on your feet. Interestingly, there is a small coffee plantation on one of the islands of the Azores – apparently one of only two in all of Europe.
Roll on the weekend!
More news next month.
(All photo images owned by David Lugg)
Previous blogs can be viewed HERE