Soalheiro is a leading wine estate located in Portugal’s verdant north, whose story and output is inseparable from the climb to international renown of the Alvarinho variety and the wines from Vinho Verde’s Monção e Melgaço subregion.
Soalheiro was founded in 1974 when João António Cerdeira and his parents, António Esteves Ferreira and Maria Cerdeira took the bold decision to plant a single, sun-soaked parcel of farmland entirely to Alvarinho. At the time, this decision was in stark contrast to the traditional practice of Portuguese farmers, which relegated grape vines to pergolas on the outskirts of dense cereal crops like maize. It was in this spirit of innovation and progress that one of western Iberia’s great wine producers was born. Today, third-generation siblings Maria João and António Luís, along with their mother Maria Palmira Cerdeira, continue to test limits and break new ground in pursuit of the finest expressions of their territory by way of the noble Alvarinho grape.
The Monção and Melgaço region, at the northernmost point of Portugal, is one of the nine sub-regions of Vinho Verde DOC. It has a very distinct microclimate, spread around the hillsides on the south bank of the Minho River, surrounded by protective mountain ranges which insulate the area from the cool, rainy impact of the nearby Atlantic Ocean (other parts of Vinho Verde are more exposed to those conditions, which make it more difficult to achieve full ripeness). The region has optimal conditions for growing Alvarinho, including large temperature differences from warm days to cold nights during maturation, and receives an ideal amount of rain and sunshine. These are important conditions necessary for the protection of varietal aromas and preserving freshness.
The brand name – Soalheiro, meaning ‘sunny’ – arises from the excellent sun exposure of the vineyards next to the winery. This is true for the rest of the vineyards too, because of the natural factors present in Monção and Melgaço.
The Cerdeira family is active in driving progress for their entire region. Maria Jose, a veterinarian by profession, oversaw conversion in 2006 of Soalheiro’s vineyards to certified organic farming. Since that time the Cerdeira family has enlisted more than 150 local families into a club of growers engaged in applying quality-oriented sustainable practices to their small vineyard holdings. Meanwhile António Luís implements his lifetime with the Alvarinho vine and his training in enology to leading Soalheiro’s winemaking team and to exploring Alvarinho’s viti-vinicultural limits. In 2019 the winery planted Portugal’s highest elevation Alvarinho vineyards at 1,100 meters above sea level.