Cortes de Cima is an estate of 365 hectares, which is only medium sized for the Alentejo. 140 ha are planted with vines, 50 ha olive trees, and 70 ha are reforestation of cork, holm oaks, pine and carob trees.
Terroir = soil, location, climate
Our soils are brown Mediterranean clay with deep, limestone subsoil, which provide good drainage. That’s very important for vines. Our vineyards are nestled against the slopes of the 400m Serra do Mendro, the mountain range which marks the northern boundary of lower Alentejo.The Vidigueira region of Alentejo enjoys very high sunshine hours with warm, dry summer temperatures, tempered by cool Atlantic breezes.
Our oldest vineyards, surrounding the house and winery, were planted in 1991. The names of the parcels of land where the grapes are grown, have been our inspiration behind the brand names of our wines, – ‘Cortes de Cima’, ‘Chaminé de Gião’ and ‘Courela dos Pageis’.
In choosing our varieties as well as our trellis system we opted to follow the looser ‘Vinho Regional’ regulations, over the more restrictive ‘DOC’ rules. However back in 1991, Syrah was not permitted on either list, but Hans planted it anyway, convinced that we had an ideal climate and soil conditions for that famous Rhone variety. Our first ‘illegal’ vintage of Syrah in 1998, was bottled as Incógnito, and quickly earned accolades and notoriety in Portugal, and Medals in London, Brussels and Bordeaux.
Today, breakdown by variety is as follows - Red varieties – 112 ha of Aragonez , Syrah, Touriga Nacional, Petit Verdot, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet, and Cabernet Sauvignon. White varieties – 28 ha of Antao Vaz, Verdelho, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Gouveio and Chardonnay.
Our vineyards and olive groves are accredited under a sustainable minimal spray program called ‘Integrated Protection’. Under this program, we are required to only use ’soft’ chemicals, and only when symptoms appear – preventive spraying is not permitted. Our vineyards and olive trees are subject to spot checks by independent monitors.
Our open canopy trellising provides the grapes with more sun exposure, which results in greater fruit intensity in the wines. It is also a great help in reducing spraying in the vineyard, as the increased exposure to sun and air, reduces fungus and mildew naturally. We were pioneers in Portugal with this raised trellis system, under the tutelage of the renown Australian ‘Vine Dr.’ Richard Smart.
To enhance biodiversity in the vineyard, we sow inter-row cover crops, a natural and organic way to suppress weeds without herbicides, as well as adding valuable organic matter to the soil. We also make use of the canes leftover after pruning the vines, leaving them to decompose in the vineyard, as another source of natural mulch.
As global warming pushes temperatures up, water use is another critical issue in the vineyard. We are completely self sufficient for our irrigation needs, only using water from our own reservoirs, which are replenished during the rainy winter months. Our vineyards are all irrigated following a system of ‘regulated deficit’ drip irrigation. “It´s important for grape quality to always give the vines less water than they want.” explains Hans. ” We must remember that water is a precious resource.”