Historic Cartuxa Monastery was built for the Carthusian Order between 1587 and 1598 by Archbishop Teotonio of the House of Bragança. Kings of the Bragança dynasty later financed embellishments for the church: in the 17th century Pedro II added a marble portico and facade to its exterior, and in the 18th century João V added a retable altar gilded in gold leaf. For this reason the church was declared a national monument in 1910. The monastery is close to Évora, where the sound of its bell, especially when it tolls at midnight, forms part of the fabric of this World Heritage museum-city.
Today, the Cartuxa de Santa Maria Scala Coeli is regarded by locals as one of Evora’s artistic and spiritual treasures. In 1834, revolutionary forces expelled the Carthusians, along with all other religious orders. The State took ownership of the monastery and used it as part of the city’s School of Agriculture, where the monumental church was turned into a grain store. However, it was rescued in 1871 when the Eugenio de Almeida family acquired the ruins. In the mid-20th century the then heir, Vasco Maria, Earl of Vil’alva, decided to restore the monastery and return it to the Order of Saint Bruno. In 1960 the Carthusian Monks returned to the monastery at the invitation of the Foundation’s creator, who completely rebuilt and restored the building. The Convento de Santa Maria Scala Coeli or Cartuxa de Évora, property of the da Eugénio de Almeida Foundation, is a place of prayer of contemplation, the only presence of Carthusian Monks in Portugal. From 1960 the Carthusian life was reborn and revived at Santa Maria Scala Coeli, open to all who wished to embrace meditation and prayer. The Monastery is neighbor to the Cartuxa Winery, with whom it shares a bucolic atmosphere inviting serenity and retreat.
Best known for intense, impressive and age-worthy fortified wines, Portugal relies almost exclusively on its many indigenous grape varieties. Bordering Spain to its north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean on its west and south coasts, this is a land where tradition reigns supreme, due to its relative geographical and, for much of the 20th century, political isolation. A long and narrow but small country, Portugal claims considerable diversity in climate and wine styles, with milder weather in the north and significantly more rainfall near the coast.
While Port (named after its city of Oporto on the Atlantic Coast at the end of the Douro Valley), made Portugal famous, Portugal is also an excellent source of dry red and white Portuguese wines of various styles.
The Douro Valley produces full-bodied and concentrated dry red Portuguese wines made from the same set of grape varieties used for Port, which include Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Spain’s Tempranillo), Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão, among a long list of others in minor proportions.
Other dry Portuguese wines include the tart, slightly effervescent Vinho Verde white wine, made in the north, and the bright, elegant reds and whites of the Dão as well as the bold, and fruit-driven reds and whites of the southern, Alentejo.
The nation’s other important fortified wine, Madeira, is produced on the eponymous island off the North African coast.
With hundreds of white grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended white wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used in white wine blends, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a soft and full-bodied white wine blend, like Chardonnay, would do well combined with one that is more fragrant and naturally high in acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.