Herdade da Malhadinha Nova, Beja, Portugal
Spread across 450 hectares of golden Alentejan farmland, this working winery-based hotel is the bolthole to book for a remote-as-they-come Portuguese stay.
28 April, 2022
Alentejo, it is said, is the most Portuguese of all regions in the country. Far removed from the anglicised Algarve, this stretch of land in the centre of Portugal is a canvas of earthy tones - all scorched reds and rugged greens. And, with views often free of any sign of human life, there's a genuine sense of tranquillity and seclusion to the destination.
Herdade da Malhadinha Nova encapsulates this feeling among its sprawling olive groves and rolling acres of vines. In its fledgling years, this country estate was just a winery - albeit a state-of-the-art affair built into a hillside to allow gravity to help with the winemaking process. A few years later, a gourmet restaurant was added, and today there are over 30 rooms spread across nine lodgings - from a 10-bedroom farmhouse to four exclusive-use villas, as well as four recently added spaceship-like suites hewn into the caramel landscape.
What makes this hotel extra special, though, is the family feel that still runs throughout the entire estate - an impressive feat considering its vast, 450-hectare footprint. It's a thread that's spun delicately across the property - from the wine labels drawn by the owners' children to the fact that the family still lives on the estate - but, most of all, it's present in the all-embracing welcome you'll be greeted with as you make your way down the driveway.
At the hotel's original farmhouse - Monte da Peceguina - you'll find seven whitewashed double rooms and three suites, all drenched in sunlight from floor-to-ceiling windows and warmed from the ground up by toasty terracotta-tiled heated floors. The spacious communal areas include a big sitting room complete with a yawning fireplace, rustic wooden dining table and squidgy button-back sofas, as well as a decked terrace and sparkling infinity pool that ripples into the deserted horizon.
Then there's Casa das Pedras - four futuristic-looking suites that appear as though carved from the very rocks they perch upon. Made of sand-coloured stone, each private lodge has its own individual terrace and pool with endless views that spill out to the beautifully empty plains beyond. Our stay in one was graced with sweet-smelling Bulgari bathroom products, a two-page pillow menu (who knew there could be so many?) and silky-soft sheets fit for a king or queen.
Further afield on the estate are another four exclusive-use villas, ranging in size, each equipped with its own kitchen and private pool. All are decorated with the same characteristic mod-rustic details as the hotel's other lodgings, although each one is splashed with a slightly different colour palette - from cinnamon and ocean blue to mustard yellow and olive green.
What's for breakfast?
A breakfast of fresh fruit, flaky pastries, regional hams and eggs cooked to order is served between 8am and 11am in Monte da Peceguina, or you can revel in the luxury of an in-room breakfast delivered to your door in a hamper.
How about lunch and dinner?
Lunch is on the table from 12.30pm-3pm, at either the main farmhouse or the winery restaurant, while dinner is served at the winery restaurant from 7.30pm-10.30pm. Both can be enjoyed from your room or villa on request.
Headed up by Michelin-starred chef Joachim Koerper, Malhadinha restaurant's menu pays careful homage to regional cuisine, with all of its fresh produce proudly cultivated on the estate - from the vineyards to the olive groves and farming pastures. Expect dishes such as Alentejan chickpea stew, oxtail ravioli and Malhadinha pork shoulder with sweet potatoes. There's also a sharp accent on wine throughout - spot the dash of red in your pre-dinner butter and bread, then look up through the reception windows to the shining steel vats of the winery itself.
Is there a bar?
Yes, there's a little bar in the main hotel building. It's the place to come for relaxing lounge music and even more relaxing tipples. If it's an in-room affair you're after, you'll find a well-stocked minibar stashed full of wines from the estate in every room.
How about amenities?
Where to start? Perhaps in the small but perfectly formed subterranean spa at Monte da Peceguina, where a Jacuzzi and Turkish bath take centre stage - or at one of the hotel's three man-made lakes, which each offer up watery excursions like boat rides and fishing.
Visit in August and you'll be invited to pick and trample grapes from the vineyard for the winery's annual harvest, or ride among the vines on one of the estate's thoroughbred Lusitano horses for a tour of the surrounding landscape.
Guests are also invited on a tour of the winery itself - a metal expanse of vats and cockpit-like knobs and buttons that look like they'd be more at home on a Bond film set than on a traditional Portuguese farm.
What about accessibility?
If you're happy to charge between the vineyards in an electric buggy (this was one of the highlights of our trip), then this stay will get a big tick from you. Accessibility is perhaps not so great, however, for wheelchairs or those with mobility issues - although we're willing to bet the ever-friendly hotel staff would be happy to organise chauffeured trips to and from villas in one of the estate's many Land Rovers, on request.
What's the crowd like?
The hotel welcomes all ages, although with such a hearty focus on food and wine, it's fair to say that this gourmet stay is better suited to adults than kids.
A Sneak Peek Inside Herade da Malhadinha Nova, Beja, Portugal
Doubles cost from £250 a night on a B&B basis. Discover more at malhadinhanova.com