All of the Foundation wines are based on the excellence of its fruit.
The area under vine is a cluster of vineyards at the estates of Pinheiros, Casito, Álamo da Horta and Valbom. The choice of Alentejo grape varieties approved and recommended for Denominação de Origem Controlada Alentejo, (sub- region Évora), have been fundamental in the creation of its wines.
There are currently over 400 hectares of land under vines, which are closely monitored and replanted. The choice of grape varieties grown is drawn from the wealth of experience the Foundation has accumulated, combined with the latest research into vinegrowing techniques.
Achieving quality grape requires a large number of factors, from selecting vine tending techniques to quality control at laboratory level. An assessment plot by plot is also carried out, focussing on soil structure, relief, sun exposure and covering all grape varieties in every stage of their production cycle.
Major grape varieties indigenous to the Alentejo are used for white wines, such as Roupeiro, Antão Vaz and Arinto. Red wines are produced from the best-known indigenous varieties, like Trincadeira, Aragonês and Castelão. Smaller amounts of less traditional, but equally qualitative grape varieties are also used in some blends.
Training systems for the vines depends on the desired quality levels to achieve while at the same time fulfilling criteria for environmental conservation. Tests are carried out throughout the production cycle to ensure that all is going to plan.
Each plot of vineyard is treated and tended individually throughout the year according to age, grape variety and soil structure, and always with a view to the wine the fruit is destined for. The yield will be estimated four months before harvest, row by row, making whatever adjustments are needed to achieve the required yield.
In the final phase of the cycle, and 45 days before harvesting, a weekly check of each plot will monitor grape maturation. Sugar and acid levels will be tested in the laboratory, the results of which dictate when harvesting should begin. Most of the picking is done manually and in daylight (all the white grapes and 75% of the reds), leaving around 25% of the the reds to be machine harvested.
The harvesting machines start work at night because high daytime temperatures cause many of the grapes to rupture. Harvesting, therefore, begins between midnight and one a.m. when the grapes have cooled and released much of the radiation absorbed during the day. The grapes are then speedily transported to the winery in small containers, to decrease the risk of oxidation. If larger ones are used they are long and shallow to prevent the grapes from being crushed.
The harvest dates differ for each grape variety, depending on their maturation time and technical requirements to optimise production. Irrigation may be necessary to obtain quality fruit in excessively dry years. The technical team of the Foundation pay particular attention to irrigation, using a variety of options based on science and experience.
The sub-surface drip irrigation was pioneered in Portugal by the Foundation and introduced in the 1990s. For environmental reasons, chemical treatments are used only when strictly necessary, taking utmost care not to damage the health conditions of the plant.
The Eugénio de Almeida Foundation has also opened its doors to the scientific community. It has been working on research projects with the University of Évora and other institutions since the 1980s.