It may bask in the glory of being one of Europe’s best beach destinations, but the Algarve has secretly been working away at becoming a wine holiday hero for foodie travellers.

Anantara Vilamoura is playing a big part in this. Opened in April 2017, this is the first Anantara hotel in Europe, bringing the luxury brand’s world-renowned level of Asian hospitality to Portugal. Its inaugural year has already seen it awarded as ‘Best New Hotel’ in Condé Nast’s Johansens Awards, and be rated by its readers as their fifth favourite hotel in Europe, setting it up to become one of 2018’s most sought-after spots.

Anantara Vilamoura Wine Holiday Destination
Anantara Vilamoura

Why Choose The Algarve For A Wine Holiday?

The Algarve might not spring to mind when you first think about a wine holiday. Indeed, it isn’t at the same heights of production as the likes of Tuscany and Napa Valley. While its neighbours to the north, Porto and Douro Valley, get all the attention for their port production, the Algarve’s hot and dry landscape is assumed to be void of vineyards.

However, there is a small number of wineries producing native wine from the region, meaning well-travelled palates can get a taste of rarely exported bottles. Of course, if you want to make the most of Portugal’s wine offering, you can easily twin a stay in the Algarve with Douro Valley in the north.

Anantara Vilamoura’s Wine Guru

According to Anantara hotels, ‘life is a journey’. This echoes throughout each of their resort’s experiences. At Anantara Vilamoura, the gastronomic offering takes guests on a journey of local cuisine and exquisite wines. Emo Restaurant, inspired by the idea of food taking guests on an emotive journey, is one of the highlights of the resort. Orientated around the resort’s selection of over 450 wine bins, every dish is expertly paired with a complementary wine by expert sommelier, Antonio Lopes.

Anantara Vilamoura's Antonio Lopes
Anantara Vilamoura’s Wine Guru, Antonio Lopes

Having been bestowed with the title ‘Best Sommelier of Portugal’ for four years in a row, Antonio works with the resort’s world-class executive chef to create an exploration of flavours in the relaxed, yet elegant, Emo Restaurant. With stunning sunset views across the golf course, wine leads the way across the courses, with innovative gastronomic creations crafted to complement each wine.

We spoke to Antonio Lopes to find out more about the Algarve and Anantara Vilamoura’s credentials as an emerging food and wine holiday hotspot. 

Why is Emo Restaurant such a must-try dining experience?

It starts from the concept – we are the only refined restaurant in Portugal where wine lies at the heart of the concept. Personalised service and attention-to-detail is also primary; we aim to have a very client-friendly service, but all the details matter. At Emo, we are showcasing a different approach to what a Michelin Star is by taking care of the guest and changing the way we look at fine dining, showcasing a team of sommeliers and highly-trained Maître Ds, before showcasing the name of a chef.

“We are the only refined restaurant in Portugal where wine lies at the heart of the concept”

Emo Restaurant at Anantara Vilamoura
Emo Restaurant at Anantara Vilamoura

What makes Portuguese wine stand out?

Differentiation. I would say that French and Spanish wines have similar profiles all over the world. Portuguese wines, however, are much harder to come by. We have historical wines that revolve around old vines that have been cultivated for years, endowing us with the biggest collection and patrimony of old vines. This means we produce some of the most complex wines in the world.

Which native wine would you recommend we try when in the Algarve?

I won’t suggest a wine, but a grape. You should try a Negramole, which is a very indigenous and elegant grape, which reminds me a little bit of a Pinot Noir. It’s very juicy and usually leans towards a jammy palate.

What is the key to finding a meal’s perfect wine pairing?

It depends on what you like and the flavours you prefer. Acidity, bitterness, sweetness, tannins and proteins all come into play. Pairings, like the wines that make them, are a very subjective manner. We need to analyse each guest and personalise his or her experience.

“All wines are great wines, depending on your mood or with who you are drinking it with”

What is your favourite dish and wine pairing on the Emo menu?

My favourite dish is the Pan Fried Seabass, which is served with the diverse textures of green peas, mushrooms and truffle essence.

As for pairings, I would say the 1989 Herdade dos Pesos a Carcavelos Wine. It’s very unique and is perfect served alongside our Madagascar Chocolate and Hazelnut Wave.

Also, the 2015 Quinta de Santiago Reserva. I would think outside of the box with this one, and serve it with a Carabineiro Bisque.

There are over 450 bins of wine for you to pick from at Emo Restaurant. Where do you start when choosing one?

Usually we start from the basic – white or red, Portuguese or from abroad. Then, we start narrowing them down with questions such as more elegant or full bodied, more tannic or smoother, high-alcohol or low-alcohol, more jammy or fresh fruit, etc…

What should we be looking out for when selecting a fine wine?

Fine wine should be selected by the palate and aromas that shine through to us. Because all wines are great wines, depending on your mood or with who you are drinking it with, there are a lot of things that change the way a wine tastes and how it affects us.

“Don’t be afraid to experiment and go all-in with bold choices”

What essential tips can you offer for those new to wine-tasting?

Don’t be afraid to experiment and go all-in with bold choices. Don’t go just with the classics, otherwise you will be missing out on a lot of opportunities, such as in life, where you need to be bold and fearless to achieve amazing goals and go where no one else can reach you. There is a whole world of wines out there to discover!

Other than Portugal, where are your favourite wines sourced from?

Portugal is, without a doubt, my favourite region. However, I love Bekka Valley in Lebanon and Borolo for reds and Burgundy for whites and reds. Reinghau in Germany produces whites that knock my socks off, while Jura in France has whites that drive me nuts – it is so hard to choose just one place!

Find out more about Anantara Vilamoura.

Feeling Inspired?

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