Beneath the smooth green lawns of VILA VITA Parc resort lies a world apart. The landscaped gardens, where resort guests stroll towards the beach, enjoying sunshine and relaxation, hide from view an amazing collection of the world´s best wines, in a unique and impressive wine cellar – the VILA VITA Parc Cave dos Vinhos. Open to the public, wine lovers are invited to explore this secret world, home to such rare jewels as Madeira Verdelho from 1850 and Château Mouton Rothschild 1er Cru Classé 1996.
A meandering cobblestone path leads to the doorway, portal to this Bacchus wonderland. Steps spiral downwards, 9 metres deep beneath the surface. Rough brick walls with candlelit recesses open out into a gothic style, vaulted cellar. The aroma, a blend of ancient bricks, wine and cork, is timeless and evocative. The cellar (or Cave dos Vinhos) was purpose built in 1998. The origins of the space are not clear (some say it served as a cold storage space hundreds of years ago) but what is sure, is that the walls and arched vaults are built with bricks over 150 years old, brought from Egypt and Greece, to better maintain stable temperatures and humidity, protecting the corks and the precious content of the thousands of bottles of wine that are stored here. In the cellar’s main chamber, a huge wrought iron chandelier hangs above the tables awaiting guests for wine tasting, tapas and wine pairing menus.
Sommelier Artur Rodrigues and Chef João Silva are the VILA VITA Parc wine guardians and they welcome you to their realm with a relaxed hospitality that encourages visitors to converse and question. They share their knowledge easily and with good humour, sharing anecdotes and information, as they guide you around the cellar. There is no traditional wine list at the Cave dos Vinhos – Artur is the wine list. He knows each of the cellars tenants, currently about 7.000 bottles of the best wines in the world (the resort as a whole is home to more than 23.000 bottles!), and speaks of them as fondly as a father of his children. Artur will guide you through the cellar, along the shelves housing Portuguese wines from Douro, Dão, Bairrada and Alentejo regions (home of the excellent Herdade dos Grous wine, produced on VILA VITA’s own estate), visiting the world through wines from the best French chateaux, from Germany, Italy, California and South America, explaining the characteristics of the different wines. Star among the Portuguese wines, and holding pride of place in the Fortified Wines section is theVerdelho from 1850, which keeps company with Madeira Malvasia 1865, and a Madeira Boal Solera de 1871.
The walls of the main chamber are lined with empty bottles and magnums of wine enjoyed by visitors to the cellar, many opened by hot tongs – an old world ritual which originated in Portugal as a way to open older bottles of port with corks that might crumble and contaminate the precious liquid. Each of these bottles has its own story and some are signed by the famous visitors who have enjoyed the Cave dos Vinhos experience.
The cellar is open to the public and there is a range of experiences on offer. You can simply opt to visit the cellar and sample a glass of wine, under the guidance of the Sommelier, or you can enjoy the unique experience of delectable tapas and main dishes, paired beautifully with some of the cellar’s wine. From the kitchen adjacent to the main vault, Chef João Silva conjures up delicious, fresh food, using local produce where possible, that perfectly complements the wines and the atmosphere. The food, which is delicate yet packed with flavour, neither overpowers or is overpowered by the wines served. Passionate hosts, João and Artur ‘s pleasure and pride in their food and surrounding is contagious and fun – and it’s not unusual for guests to spend time in the kitchen with João as he works his pots and pans.
Replete with good food and wine, senses filled with scents and flavours, the mind humming with stories, guests climb the staircase back to the surface, emerging into the ordered luxury of VILA VITA Parc resort.
The Cave dos Vinhos is open to the public from 15:00hrs to 22:00 hrs. and offers wine and cheese tasting (for maximum 20 people) and Portuguese Tapas and Wine pairing (for maximum 12 people). Private events can also be arranged. For menu details and reservations please visit VILA VITA Parc Cave dos Vinhos