Ever come across the sign for Howard’s Folly while driving through the industrial estate in Estremoz and wondered what the castle-like building is all about? Read on to find out more about Estemoz’ very own ‘urban winery’:  

Words: Iain Blackwell
Photography: Courtesy of Howard’s Folly
Article originally published in Essential Marbella Magazine

The Winery
Founded in 2002, when Howard Bilton, a Hong Kong based entrepreneur and wine aficionado originally from Yorkshire, combined forces with David Baverstock, an Australian pioneer of modern winemaking who has revolutionised wine in Portugal by bringing the new world science to the old world wine industry. David is the only non-Portuguese national who has been awarded Winemaker of the Year, on three occasions, and he was recently created a Comendador (a style of knighthood) for his services to the agricultural industry. Howard, meanwhile, always had a soft spot for Portuguese wines and particularly those from the Alentejo region, and Howard’s Folly is the realisation of a long-cherished dream, with the main vineyard located in Portalegre in the heart of the Alentejo landscape. From here, several varietals are gathered and blended with grapes from local farmers to produce their alluring wines, most of this being accomplished at a state-of-the-art urban winery at Estremoz, a facility that is open to visitors for tours and tastings, with a wine shop and fine dining restaurant.

Howards Folly EstremozProduction Technique
The wine production is carried out in smaller vats, which enhances the expression of fruit in the fermentation and allows for the creation of premium wines resulting from the separation and careful blending of different batches. Most of the red wine for sale to the public is of older vintages and can also be procured in magnum bottles. Even the whites are mature, with those currently available ranging from 2013 to 2018, including a very palatable Alvarinho which is made in the north west of the country.

Sonhador 2018 whiteImpressive Wines
The wines currently on offer online have very impressive credentials. Firstly the 2015 Sonhador Tinto is rated 93/100 by internationally acclaimed wine critic, James Suckling, who describes it thus: “Very powerful and fruity, yet plenty of tannins and spice with slate undertones frame the wine very well, giving it focus and intensity. This is punchy and rich, but turns dry and beautiful.” The same critic gives an identical scoring to the 2018 Sonhador Branco, for which wine writer Matthew Jukes comments, “This is one of the most involving and complex Portuguese whites I’ve tasted in years. Coming from the Portalegre region, where cooler temperatures and old vines make this a hedonistic treat, this is a main course white with a magical perfume.” Moving on to the maturer reds, the 2013 Winemaker’s Choice has a 91/100 rating by Mark Squires of Robert Parker, who stated, “This is pretty terrific and very reasonably priced for a late release,” meanwhile the powerhouse of the range, the 2015 Reserva has an impressive 92 scoring from the same critic, who describes it: “This is tight, crisp and powerful, with mid-palette finesse and refinement. The silky texture makes it sensual and gives it a bit of a Burgundian feel.”

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