A journey into Portugal’s Alentejo
All in the details; a chic stay at the rural Malhadinha Nova with unique travel curators, Voyages & Journeys.
The passion of travel curators Vanessa and Jasper from Voyages & Journeys surpasses the norm. Even before meeting them face to face, I could tell they were in it because they genuinely wanted to improve travel experiences. The faultless and compassionate service from the outset reflected their personalities.
They accompanied me on my transfer to our destination. The two-hour travel time from Lisbon allowed us to chat about their aim with Voyages and Journeys. The different paths they are taking from others and the values they hold close to help them find their edge in unique and once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences for clients.
And for this journey? They were taking me to experience one of their favourites and Portugal's best-kept secret, Alentejo. Driving through Alentejo at sunset made the evocative natural scenery even more so, with pink glistening in between the rolling vineyards and cork farms which seemed to stretch for miles. Sporadically we would encounter a small village where things moved leisurely, and they undoubtedly embraced the slower pace of life. The kind of villages where locals always leave their doors open and unlocked explained Vanessa.
A warm welcome
Arriving at Herdade da Malhadinha Nova in the evening created even more intrigue that this wild region exuded. The bumpy transfer in one of the estate's characterful jeep defenders did not disappoint.
On route through the estate, Jasper explained that it spread over 450 hectares with various houses complete with rooms and suites. Over time the ruins throughout this area have been transformed into luxury accommodations. I was welcomed into one of the estate's 30 rooms within the 'Home of the terracotta.'
Waking up to the far-reaching view surrounded by vineyards held promise for the next two days spent on the estate. Finishing up a cappuccino in none other than Vista Alegre crockery and the in-house chef's speciality eggs on the terrace overlooking the pool, I was ready. The tour around the estate highlighted how Malhadinha uses architecture that perfectly complements the area's rurality with modernity.
Each house has its own take on the Alentejo culture, filled with various pieces from local artisans. I even had the opportunity to try my hand at a craft while here, taking a bulrush workshop with a local artisan – safe to say my creations won't make it into a room, however insightful and fun all the same. Each interior has its personalised touches, from the handcrafted marble details, and locally crafted furniture to the creative lights made from recycled plastic.
Owned by the Soares family, Rita Soares, the CEO, was there pointing out her favourite spots, with even a glimpse into the new under-construction spa area, building yet more for the future on what is already an estate based upon strong family foundations. It is truly all in the details throughout, and you can see this family passion project is authentic, with Rita perfecting every design touch herself, even down to each room's scent.
Like all good stories, the Soares family story began with wine, with their project starting with the plantation of the first 20 hectares of vineyards. The tour around Malhadina's wine-making facilities and cellars showed every bottle label drawn by the family's children; the cow by Matilde was my favourite! This charm continued throughout and into the wine-tasting experience. Tasting their complex yet elegant – which today are award-winning – wines confirmed that they had resulted in their dedication to their respectful and sustainable processes.
The wines were paired with one of the many farm to table experiences I had here. From the olive groves, orchards, and farms to the vegetable gardens, Malhadinha is rich in quality, organic produce grown using regenerative farming methods. The food truly put the cherry on top, especially the Alentejo black pork on decadent risotto. Or maybe it was the incredible apple tart that almost looked too good to eat.
The chefs throughout the estate are true to traditions while putting their gastronomic twists and tweaks on each dish. One of the local Portuguese chefs has been in the family for the past 25 years, adding the best-loved family dishes to the estate's menu. If you fancy getting in the kitchen, you can take lessons at Malhadinha and learn from the best.
Anything is possible
As well as being introduced to various friendly and welcoming staff members and local artisans in my time here, I also got to meet the other equine family members. They weren't just any horses; these were pure-blood Lusitano horses you can ride throughout the vineyards.
Aside from wine tasting and horseback riding, there is plenty to do here. On my stay, I met with Luisa, the guest experience manager and was reassured that pretty much everything and anything was possible at Malhadinha, purely restricted by the guest's imaginations and desires. Some popular experiences are hot air balloon rides over the Alentejo plains, romantic picnics within the vineyards, quad biking around the estate or even your own beekeeper experience.
More than luxury
In Alentejo, nothing is rushed, slowly but surely providing for future generations. These sustainability-minded values continue to be a focus throughout Malhadinha, staying honest to the region.
It is more than a luxury retreat. Malhadinha provides a carefully designed, unique and authentic space where traditions are kept alive and experiences are second to none while balancing the needs and respect for nature. Everything here, like in the hands of Voyages & Journeys, feels right and is a profound step for luxury travel.