As we walk through life, our long-term goals shift. Prime among them now, for us: to be doing something daily that’s as intrinsically engaging at age 91 as winemaking so clearly remains for António Bernardino Paulo da Silva, of Adegas Beira Mar, in the Colares DOC.

He keeps a close counsel, surrounded by family. The adega hasn’t fully joined the enotourismo ranks, still selling wines from its loja overlooking the ocean, from the front of the building where they age many of their wines. These wines go to markets and restaurants locally—and around the world.

After we’ve spent three years in Praia das Maçãs, just steps from where Adegas Beira Mar has its main office, time rewarded our patient efforts, and those of Pedro Rocha, manager for the adega and Sr. Paulo da Silva’s nephew. We’d made our original request to meet Sr. Paulo da Silva at the start of harvest, so we had a feeling it might take a while for things to calm down enough to talk with the storied winemaker himself.

We’d enjoyed the wines of Beira Mar throughout our time living in the Colares DOC, as clearly Sr. Paulo da Silva does as well. Our meeting was well worth the wait. 

On a November afternoon, he’s sampling a white from the tank, swirling it in the coastal light that streams through the open warehouse door, gentling over the glass. Standing in the old building with a new roof, we’re just steps from the sea cliffs a few hundred meters before the road creases around into Azenhas do Mar. He’s holding a scarf to his neck to stay warm—an early season cold has plagued him, and he speaks softly to us in bright terms, his love for the wine shining through any fatigue he might feel.

Rocha has shown us the main storage tonnes, stamped with the numbers ending in “88” that denote they were built in 1888; the adega itself was created in 1898, by Sr. Paulo da Silva’s grandfather, António Bernardino da Silva Chitas. The giant mahogany barrels are common in the DOC, for the aging of Ramisco in particular. Built-in cement tanks line a wall, similar to those found across much of Portugal. These have been recently lined with epoxy and hold between 13,000 and 25,000 liters. Rocha shows us the heavy covers with iron rings set in the floor for tanks in the ground not used for the moment. Bottles from the recent vintages stack up in side rooms, protected from the light and kept in the cellar-like coolness of the traditionally constructed building.

We walk into the larger warehouse towards the rear of the adega, and look upon a busy scene. Stainless steel tanks hold currently fermenting wines, while smaller plastic tanks prepare to transport those wines ready for bottling. As with most wines in the small DOC, bottling takes place at the cooperativa in the town of Colares, across from Beira Mar’s other warehouse. 

Like other producers in the DOC, Beira Mar purchases many of its grapes from small growers, with vineyards scattered around Janas, Fontenelas, and in between. Just a handful of plots are owned by the adega. Those DOC grapes—the red, vibrant Ramisco, and the lemony, floral Malvasia de Colares—come from the sandy soils within certain designated areas. While the whites can be enjoyed at a relatively young age, after a year or two, the reds need at least ten years of aging to transform their raw tannins into the magic elixir that rewards this patience.

Beira Mar also bottles a series of regional wines, crafted from grapes grown in the Torres Vedras area, at varying price points. A consistency of quality strikes us as a hallmark of the adega, with its table wines clearly seeing the same kind of care going into the bottle as the DOC wines, which sell for ten times the price—or more, with some age on the bottle.

We pass by another member of the family placing labels on bottles in a small room, before we head upstairs. “These are going to the Netherlands,” says Rocha. Norway was an early foreign market for the Beira Mar wines—in fact one recently won a top 20 rating in Dagens Næringsliv, the Norwegian version of the Financial Times.

Upstairs, we look at the line of photographs on the wall: Sr. Paulo da Silva’s grandfather, the founder, and then his father, his wife, and Sr. Paulo da Silva himself, as a young man, and then more recently. As the men pass from mutton-chop whiskers to the classic clothing still worn by the proper Portuguese today, you get a sense of how close we are to the history, standing in the very spot where this wine first was made, its style evolved into an elegance over the decades.

The harvests remain small; 2018 was no different—in fact, more difficult all around, as Rocha attests. About 1,000 cases of the Ramisco wine are produced each year, though the table wines broaden the adega’s reach significantly.

We take a few minutes to taste the latest wines from the DOC, standing there next to the old tonnes. With no formal tasting program, Rocha had simply grabbed the unlabeled bottles from the cellar, so the Ramsico was a bit cooler than usual, and the Malvasia de Colares just right—but the reference aromas and tastes of the DOC rang true. I look forward to seeking out older vintages to compare them.

On our way home, we walk past a local market, and pick up a bottle of the Ribamar regional wine from the shelf. Colares wines feature at every store worth its salt here in the district—we encourage you to try any one of them. You can be assured of the quality; on this evening, we can attest to the richness of Beira Mar’s, as we filled our glasses alongside a rustic grelhos-stuffed chicken and bone broth and listening to the rain beginning to fall.

Tasting Notes: November 16, 2018

Adegas Beira Mar 2009 Colares Chitas Tinto

From DOC Colares. 100% Ramisco. 12% abv. Tasted from the cellared bottle at a cool temperature. Fresh salinity marking its youth, with the tannins now moderate and rolling more smoothly. Still a lot of time left in this bottle. Dark berries but a green, herbal undertone.

Vintage & Producer: 2009 Adegas Beira Mar

From: DOC Colares

Style: Elegant, moderately acidic red

Variety: Ramisco

Price: roughly €22, more for older vintages

Adegas Beira Mar 2015 Colares Chitas Branco

From DOC Colares. 100% Malvasia de Colares. 12% abv. Tasted from the cellared bottle at a cool temperature. Aromas of mussel or oyster shells, ocean air. Also, fresh sweet corn on the palate with a streak of lemon zest.

Vintage & Producer: 2015 Adegas Beira Mar

From: DOC Colares

Style: Elegant, acidic white

Variety: Malvasia de Colares

Price: roughly €22; more for older vintages

Adegas Beira Mar Ribamar Colheita 2012

From VR Lisboa/Estremadura. 12% abv. Tasted at home. Dark fruits all around, with roasted aromas, pomegranates. Bright blackberries on the palate…and a tiny little underlying touch of salt still sensed when re-tasted two days later. Holds its own.

Vintage & Producer: 2012 Adegas Beira Mar

From: VR Lisboa

Style: Fruity, moderately rich red

Variety: Tinto blend

Price: €5,50 at local market

Casal da Azenhas Tinto 2017

Tasted at home. Deep burgundy in color. Just-ripe blackberries on the nose and palate, like those little half-wild ones we find on the side of the road here in Colares. Streak of umami on the palate too.

Vintage & Producer: 2017 Adegas Beira Mar

From: VR Lisboa


Variety: Tinto blend

Price: €19,50 at local markets

Casal da Azenhas Branco 2017

Tasted at home. Warm, light straw color, with thistle and Meyer lemon aromas. Lemon gummy bears on the palate, but quite dry still. As it warms up, flavors morph into canned pineapple.

Vintage & Producer: 2017 Adegas Beira Mar

From: VR Lisboa


Variety: Branco blend

Price: €19,50 at local markets


Adegas Beira Mar Vins de Mesa Branco e Tinto

The white is a light spring yellow, with clear lemony pulp and pith on the nose and palate. The red features a deep garnet color, and black cherry fruits. Great everyday wines, especially considering the price.

Vintage & Producer: Adegas Beira Mar NV Branco & Tinto (released in 2018)

From: IVV/Wines of Portugal (Colares/Lisboa)

Style: Moderately acidic white; fruit-forward but low alcohol red

Varieties: White and red grapes, respectively, from clay soils in the Colares region

Price: €2,50 each at local stores