Beira Interior Wine Region, Portugal
The region of Portugal known as the Beiras is often called the granite heart of the country, including as it does Portugal's highest mountain range, the Serra da Estrela, which runs diagonally across the Beiras from southwest to northeast. This is a particularly beautiful part of Portugal, with high mountain peaks and fortified villages, or Aldeias Históricas. Historically, sheep and goat farming was the main economic activity here, and the region is known for its cheeses - including the wonderful, pale creamy delicious cheese - Queijo da Serra Estrela - produced by local shepherds. More recently, Government funding has helped open up this previously isolated region by building new roads and restoring many of the Aldeias Históricas, some of which are now very firmly tourist destinations in their own right. (See link here for tourist information).
West of the Serra da Estrela, the Mondego river winds its way through the high, wooded Dao country, the city of Coimbra (capital of the Beiras), before reaching the sea at Figueira da Foz. The Beiras were once divided into different areas - Beira Litoral (Coastal), Beira Baixa (lower), and Beira Alta (upper) - though these distinctions are now obsolete. Beira Interior today is that part of Beiras including the Serra de Marofa south of the Douro region, the eastern part of the Serra da Estrela range, and the mountains bordering Spain. Granite dominates here - the mountains, the buildings, and dry stone walls. This is a high-altitude region - even valley floors are around 300m above sea level. The granite soils and altitude influence the character of local wines; soils are thin and meagre, with high acidity. High alcohol wines can result from growers waiting for tannins to ripen. Beira Interior is very much an emerging winegrowing region, not as developed as others elsewhere in Portugal, having suffered from inaccessibility and economic hardship leading to lack of investment.
Today there is a mix of co-operatives and small producers, and a few small producers have made significant investment in modern methods and are outperforming the rest, as massive improvements in the quality of the wines areseen. Most of the grape varieties used in Beira Interior are also grown elsewhere in Portugal, but one premium white variety, Fonte Cal, is indigenous to Beira Interior. Our supplier in Beira Interior is the excellent Quinta dos Currais, at Capinha, run by José Diogo Tomás since 1989.