Who the hell is Cliff Richard?
Cliff is the first real British pop star. In the 60’s he had hit after hit and was considered the British equivalent of Elvis with an equally large flock of fans. In total he sold 260 million records and made five feature films.


birchFather Nigel Birch (L) with wife Lesley and son Max (R).  
Thirty years ago Nigel Birch moved to Portugal with his family to set up as a wine maker. He made contact with Cliff Richard who had, in a moment of insanity, bought himself a vineyard there but had absolutely no idea what to do with they yearly output of 20.000 bottles undrinkable wine.

The two men shared the same concerns: the impossible investments required to make a wine business well run and profitable. They joined forces and set up Adega do Cantor; 'The Vineyard of the singer'.
This culminated in a collaboration of three different wine businesses: Cliff’s Quinta do Moinho, Nigel’s Vale do Sobreiro, and Quinta do Miradouro, owned by Nigel's son and wine maker Max Birch. Together they invested in building a modern well-equipped winery where the grapes of all three quintas (20 hectares in total) are being made into wine.

After years of hard labour they won their first gold medal at a Berlin wine concourse for their white Vida Nova. While the wine makers were still dancing on the tables, thrilled with this news, they remembered that all the bottles had already been labelled and boxed. So it was impossible to stick the gold medal stickers on the bottles.

In the mean time, faith in the use of the famous singer's image for marketing purposes has wavered somewhat. Nigel: 'Even though most of the fans are in England, our sales over there are the worst. Maybe they see us as yet another celebrity trying to get into wine making. But we are so much more than that now. We make wines that count. However sales are still down. We don't really manage to produce to a competitive price. Our top wine has a consumer price of nearly 15 euro, which is really too dear for supermarket customers. Our wine is selling well in Portugal, Germany and Denmark. In the UK we have our rosé at Waitrose but the English just don't seem to like paying for wine.'
  His son, winemaker Max Birch, has been kissed by the grape. When he speaks of wine making his eyes light up. An inspired winemaker, determined to make Portugal's best wine.
'In our vineyard we don't use machinery for anything,' he declares proudly. 'Picking, pruning, removing excess leaves, everything is done by hand. We can do it that we because we work with Brazilian migrant labourers. In Portugal you're allowed to water the grapes so the vineyards are equipped with an irrigation system, but we try to limit its use. I want to keep the whole process as natural as possible. One of the problems we are faced with is the increased alcohol levels due to the heat (temperatures rise to around 40 degrees here in summer). We have tried tackling it in different ways, by harvesting in August for example. But that made the wine harsh and vegetal. So now we reduce the alcohol percentage by way of reverse osmosis. And by cutting away the young offshoots early in the year we reduce the volume of the harvest and hopefully add flavour to the grapes.'

Together with Max we tasted the wines and found them, as they so beautifully put it in France, 'assez correct'. I understand the problem: Portugese wines are quite idiosyncratic. Not bad, but unfamiliar: rarely seen in supermarkets outside Portugal. nonetheless, the Vida Nova reserva 2007 comes recommended. So remember to visit Cliff's quinta he next time you are in Albufeira (say hi to Liz). You'll easily recover the entry fee of €7,50 during the tasting session and the warmth and hospitality of the people is heartwarming. Saúde!



Voilà Cliffs complete winerange.


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