Wine and Food Diary of Giles MacDonogh

‘Saudouso’ for the Alentejo

Written by Giles MacDonogh

‘Saudouso’ for the Alentejo

Posted: 11th July 2016

My very modest contribution to the literature on Portuguese wine appeared fifteen years ago. It is not a good book. Turning the pages now I feel quite pleased that it has lapsed into obscurity. Others have taken up the Portuguese mantle since and they do it better. The pictures and the maps did it no favours either. In justification, however, it had always been my ambition to write something on Portugal and although I knew the country reasonably well, there were a number of corners I had never seen. Writing the book gave me the chance to complete the picture. Of all the parts of Portugal I visited on this project, the Alentejo attracted me most.

Most of Portugal is cluttered and overcrowded. Huge swathes of the population have emigrated over the past forty or fifty years, mostly to France and Germany. Leaving, however, is not generally perceived as a complete divorce from the old country, and every summer the emigrants return en masse and add a few bricks and stridently multi-coloured tiles to a monstrous house all covered in plastic sheets somewhere beside a main road. They live in the old family shack while they tinker around with the plumbing. Then September dawns, and it is time to go home to Paris or Frankfurt. The worst concentration of these half-houses is in the damp Minho region that borders Spanish Galicia in the north. The abominations thin out a bit south of the Mondego, and by the time you cross the mighty Tagus, they disappear almost completely leaving the Alentejo with its vines and wheat fields and its hot summer sun.

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Giles MacDonogh

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