Known over the world as the most westerly point of continental Europe, Cape Roca, Portugal, was named by the Romans as “Promontorium Magnum”. A prominent part of a coast dominated by high cliffs, it is essentially a rocky spur of syenites (a coarse-grained intrusive igneous rock with a general composition similar to that of granite, but deficient in quartz), an integral part of the Sintra (a town about 15 kilometers, or 9 miles to the east) eruptive Massif. Biologically speaking, it is particularly rich in flora which includes species that are rare and in danger of extinction – a result of a combination of factors including the orientation of the northeast prevailing winds laden with humidity, the presence of the sea and the frequently occurring mists.
This and other autochthonous (characteristic) flora of the region have been subjected to fierce competition for some decades from the hottentot fig, an exotic shrub introduced to Portugal in the 20th century as an ornamental plant that has developed extraordinarily fast in the absence of natural predators, colonizing the space of other species.
The cliffs at Cabo da Roca are almost vertical and are sporadically colonized by sea-fennel or rock samphire and occasionally by sea lavender. Many birds choose to make their nests here as cliffs offer safety from predators.
Whether covered in mist or bathed in wonderful sunshine, Cabo da Roca is what Camoes called the point where the earth ends and the sea begins — a uniue and unforgettable promontory in Portugal.
The broad sandy beach at Colares offers bathers access to the water in between the massive cliffs of the area.
After eating at a nearby restaurant (see our next blog) for a petiscos degustation, we headed off to the “most western vineyard of Europe”, Quinta do Casal Sta. Maria.
The origin of the Casal de Santa Maria (wine) Estate goes back as far as the beginning of the 18th century. The main house was built in 1720 and remarkably survived the major 1755 earthquake because of the Serra de Sintra (mountain) underground granite structure.
Wine production was interrupted in 1903, but just over 100 years later Baron von Buemmer, after his 97th birthday, brought “the most Western vineyards in Europe” back to life and modernized the boutique winery. At 103 years of age today, the Baron is still active in the winery. Unfortunately, at the time of our tour and tasting, we did not have the opportunity to meet the Baron, as he was having his mid-day siesta.
Wine production was interrupted in 1903, but just over 100 years later Baron von Buemmer, after his 97th birthday, brought “the most Western vineyards in Europe” back to life and modernized the boutique winery. At 103 years of age today, the Baron is still active in the winery.
Casal Santa Maria is one of the region’s premium wineries, producing both red (tinto) and white (branco) single varietal and blended wines.