Anyone who has been to Sesimbra has surely noticed the fortified construction that practically divides the beach into two parts. Called Fortaleza de Santiago, it was built during the Restoration Wars, in the middle of the seventeenth century, against Felipe IV, in a place where a powerful regime was built by King Manuel I, but suffered great devastation during the Iberian Union, when Spain’s traditional enemies made Portugal Also a target.
The castle was restored a few years ago and is now one of the village’s cultural attractions – moreover it houses the Maritime Museum. It serves as a symbol of how the development of a region, in this case the Setubal Peninsula, can pass through an appreciation of culture in the broadest sense. If there was a time when industry reigned – as a Setubal native, I witnessed the rise and crisis of large corporations, such as Setenave -, the region is seeking to reinvent itself in the 21st century, taking advantage of Lisbon’s proximity for tourism purposes, but making its individuality very clear, Which runs through the architectural heritage but also through gastronomy and wine. Well, it was good food and good wine that marked, on Thursday night, the awards ceremony of the 22nd Setubal Peninsula Wine Competition, held in a tent set up in Castle Santiago that allowed those dined to hear the soft lapping. Waves on those four-centuries-old rocks.
As for the seafood served, it’s easy for me to say ok: the octopus and black sheath fish fillets were delicious. You don’t want to be narrow-minded, in terms of fish Sesimbra and Setúbal are at a higher level, just watch the fishing trawlers arrive, go to the market to observe or eat in a good restaurant.
Of the wines, I confess I understand only as an expert. But I know how they rely on exports and also to create a certain image of Portugal’s charm abroad, from the Porto that English royals drank to the Madeira that Thomas Jefferson used to roast America’s Independence.
Among the winners were small producers and famous houses. This diversity was reflected in the big winners, as revealed in the official closing statement: “Best Wine of the Competition – Domingos Soares Franco Superior Private Collection 2001 (Fortified Wine | DO Moscatel Roxo de Setúbal by José Maria da Fonseca Vinhos, SA), Best Fortified Wine – Domingos Soares Franco Superior Private Collection 2001 (Fortified Wine | DO Moscatel Roxo de Setúbal from José Maria da Fonseca Vinhos, SA), Best Red Wine – Fontanário de Pegões Vinhas Velhas 2016 (Red Wine | DO Palmela from Cooperativa Agrícola de Santo Isidro de Pegões, CRL), Best White Wine – Papo Amarelo Reserva 2021 (White Wine | Regional Península de Setúbal from Cooperativa Agricola de Santo Isidro de Pegões, CRL), Best Pink Wine – Guitarist 2021 (Pink Wine | Peninsula Regional de Setubal by Fernando Santana Pereira Universual, LDA).
In the remaining categories, Casa Ermilinda Freitas stands out for its stacking of gold medals, a case of success and leadership in women’s football that I know well and is even worth mentioning in historian João Paulo Oliveira y Costa’s latest book, Portugal. In history – one identity. By the way, as proof that these wines from the Setubal region are known across the border, I remember, while reporting in the US on immigrants, seeing a red Donna Irmelinda for sale in San Diego.
I praise tradition but do not despise the amount of science behind the success of several Portuguese wines in recent years, from the Setubal region and all the others. The role of winemakers is crucial in the renewal of quality, not neglecting, of course, the grape varieties, the soils and the climate. Also in attendance were two names I already knew, Domingos Soares Franco, whom I met at one time, and Jaime Quindera, with whom I shared a table and whose stories taught me more about this wonderful world of wine.
Outside, the Atlantic Ocean continued to crash against the walls. I understand what someone meant when they talked about the maritime influence on wines from the Setubal region.
“Wannabe internet buff. Future teen idol. Hardcore zombie guru. Gamer. Avid creator. Entrepreneur. Bacon ninja.”