Uva, 5230-232 Santo Adrião, Portugal
Uva is a village of 50 inhabitants located in the Northeasten region of Trás-os-Montes, the wine region of Planalto Mirandês (IPR). The numerous dovecotes (pigeon homes) built throughout the village are what make this place unique. Ironically, dovecotes used to be a symbol of prosperity. The village also once had many vineyards.
There’s a Portuguese saying that perfectly describes the climate of this 500 meter high town: “9 months of winter and 3 months of hell.” It’s 11 o’clock and the temperature is already almost 34 degrees, a scorching hot day is ahead. Olive, oak, and chestnut trees are the main trees found in the region. The aridity is strong and the vegetation dots the landscape. The elders have a habit of ploughing everything, all the time, which amplifies the feeling of dryness.
At Raisin, we have been following Aline's work from her start as a winegrower and maker, and it's an understatement to say that her path has been a complicated one. In 2017, Aline decided that she wanted to make wine in Uva, despite her father and grandfather not fully supporting her on this project. As people who left a place in hopes for a better life elsewhere, they struggled to watch Aline go back to that place of adversity. Not only was the economic situation bad in their time (post Salazar dictatorship), but it's only deteriorated year after year. Agriculture and livestock have been silently dying, young people leave to go work in cities, the older inhabitants disappear, and the roofs on houses are collapsing. But as long as there is life, there still is hope for Uva. And thanks to the Palombar – Conservação da Natureza e do Património Rural association, a lot of hope remains! Palombar has been based in Uva for 20 years, and they've been doing a tremendous job restoring the land and the heritage. Aline tells us that without Palombar helping to revitalize the village, she would probably never have had the strength to move back and to settle in Uva alone. Now there is a young generation looking for a new beginning for Uva and to build a real future there.
Aline is a thoughtful, rather reserved, and extremely motivated person. It's through her sheer force of determination that she's succeeded in releasing her first wines.
After receiving a diploma in fermentation research, Aline went to work for a few months at Quinta do Romeu, an organic family farm about an hour outside of Uva. She started making her first wines with their grapes, in her own way. From the start, Aline was criticized for not doing things as they had been done before, that she must plow in a certain way, that her wines didn't taste right... In short, she was encouraged to stop doing what she was doing. They clearly didn't know Aline! This first experience really gave her insight into the great potential of the indigenous grapes, inspiring her to keep trying. It was then that Aline decided to make natural wine, and take on this adventure in Uva where her roots are. She symbolically named the estate "Menina d'Uva," meaning "the girl from Uva." Even though her grandfather was concerned about the project's viability, Aline's father and grandfather provided their cellars that didn't have water or electricity, but possessed an incredible natural freshness. With the help of a crowdfunding campaign, Aline bought her first press and set up the premise. 2018 was her first year of production, with the red Palomba (pigeon in Portuguese) being a great success.
I traded Paris for a simple, rural life that has always drawn me in, with the aim of caring for and sharing the wonderful wine heritage of this region.
— Aline Domingues, Natural winemaker.
In Uva, Aline intrigues. Slowly but surely, she's gained the respect of the village's inhabitants, and they've rented her their plots. Today, Aline takes care of 10 small local plots (3 ha in total), which she maintains all on her own. Her farming includes pruning with the "gobelet" method (no mildew in this area), doing everything organically without synthetic products, and using plant compost. Aline chooses to stimulate the life of the soil from the ground up, using vegetables and grasses that increase available organic matter and protect the vine from soil desertification. On this hot and arid land, Aline's results are convincing, and the town is beginning to really appreciate her thoughtful work.
I don’t apply any treatment on the vines. The daytime heat, wine, and aridity along with the cool nights are ideal for the plants, and all they need.
— Aline Domingues, Natural winemaker.
Little by little, Aline's wines are making their mark around the world, not just in Portugal! She makes two reds (Palomba and Ciste), a white (Liquen), and a rosé (Empusa) which are all aromatic expressions of the varieties and the local terroir. You'll be astonished by the depth and lightness of these wines, the mastered alcohol level, and such a unique elegance coming from these vines (sometimes centuries old)! The work in the cellar is impeccable: the whole grapes are entirely fermented in vats for the reds, and are slowly pressed with a manual vertical press for the white and rosé. The wines ferment naturally, without any addition of yeasts or additives, and with very little to no sulphites. Aline has chosen to age all of the wines on fine lees in stainless steel vats, except for the rosé which is aged in barrels. They are then bottled manually by gravity, without fining or filtration.
As her production grows, Aline's other life projects are coming along - planting her own vines and mapping out her and Uva's future. Aline tells us, "I traded paris for a simple, rural life that has always drawn me in, with the aim of caring for and sharing the wonderful wine heritage of this region." With the strength of her character and her arms, Aline is making waves and putting Uva on the map for natural wine. Força Menina d'Uva!
A complete list of bars, restaurants, and wine shops where you can find Aline Domingue's wines is coming soon!