After 30 years in Portugal, Peter Bright continues to wear his infectious enthusiasm like a badge. One of the most passionate of winemakers, he charges around the winery like an excited schoolboy, desperate to share his latest project with a new audience. Chatting with him, it is impossible not to get caught up with his sense of excitement but it is only when you start to taste the Terra d'Alter range that a lightbulb flicks on and you realise what it is that continues to drive this 60 year old Aussie.
Based in the region of Alto Alentejo, tucked away in southeastern Portugal, some 2 hours drive east from Lisbon, this is certainly not one of the world's more fashionable wine growing areas but that in itself carries distinct advantages, at least in terms of land prices. Working with 2 other major partners, they have invested both in vineyards and in a new winery (nothing flashy, its a unit on an industrial estate on the edge of the town of Fronteira) with a mission to produce a portfolio of wines at varying price levels but all of which offer quite exceptional value.
Working with a mixture of traditional Portuguese and well recognised international varieties, Peter has created a range of beautifully made. elegant wines of real character and individuality. As part of the tasting exercise we looked at both current vintages and back vintages which served to emphasise that these are wines of substance some of which will happily improve over 5-6 years. Not bad for something which costs little more that a takeaway curry!
From this merchant's point of view, one of the most refreshing aspects of our whistle-stop visit was the "warts and all" approach taken by our hosts. All too often winery visits resemble something of a beauty pageant focussing on beautifully manicured vineyards and dimly lit cellars but here we were treated to the reality of a working winery in the middle of the vintage. Oak chips? Yup, there they are being used quite unashamedly to add extra definition and texture to the entry level wines, Oak staves? Most certainly, hard to disguise hanging there in the fermentation tanks but the fact is that these are part of the armoury of tools used by Peter to craft this extraordinary range of wines.
Working in this industry we are privileged to enjoy a certain amount of hospitality and to visit some pretty spectacular places but this 24 hour trip to Terra d'Alter rates as one of the most interesting, informative and attitude changing that I have experienced. I urge you to try the wines as they are really quite special.
Currently in stock or on their way......
Terra d'Alter Branco 2012 £7.99
Terra d'Alter Alvarinho 2011 £9.59
Terra d'Alter Verdelho 2011 £9.59
Terra d'Alter Viognier 2012 £9.59
Terra d'Alter Reserva Branco 2010 £10.95
Terra d'Alter Tinto 2011 £7.99
Terra d'Alter Touriga Nacional 2010 £9.59
Terra d'Alter Alicante Bouschet 2011 £9.59
Terra d'Alter Reserva Tinto 2009 £10.95