Friday, 4 October 2013

Aguardente de Medronho

The Aguardente de Medronho is a strong spirit, a traditional fruit brandy from Portugal, obtained from the fruit of the Medronho tree, Arbutus unedo, also called strawberry tree. Medronho trees grow wild on the poor soils in rural regions of Portugal such as Alentejo and the inner Algarve. They can also be found in the Tras-os-Montes region.

Their culture was stopped for several decades, having risen with the increased profitability of the activity of production of brandy. To this, has contributed the use of machines like excavators (bulldozers) that allowed cut of the Medronho trees for its base which stimulates the breaking strain (zone of the stem near the ground that "survives" the cut). Peak production occurs in the 3rd year of the plant, maintaining the economically viable levels for a further 5 to 8 years. After 15-20 years, it becomes necessary to remove them to be replaced.

There is no commercial plantation of the trees and the fruits are mainly collected by local farmers, by hand and processed privately. Therefore, good Aguardente de Medronho can’t be bought in supermarkets but directly from these farmers. Very few farmers have a license for distillation, but are tolerated by the authorities to keep alive this traditional Portuguese speciality.

Aguardente de Medronhos is very popular with ordinary people, such as farmers and fishermen, and often drunk for breakfast to wake the spirits. When sweetened with honey it is called Brandymel.

Aguardente de Medronho contains around 48% of alcohol content.

Monchique, a town in the Algarve, hosts every year the festival of the Medronho.


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