Traditions: Água-Pé


The água-pé is a typical Portuguese wine-like beverage that is traditionally served, along with chestnuts, on the Saint Martin’s day on the 11th November. The legend tells that, when the young Saint Martin (São Martinho in Portuguese) found a freezing homeless person, he promptly cut his cape in half and gave it you the man to warm him up. To celebrate this gesture, God created the brief Saint Martin’s summer every year around that day. And it is exactly in that short break of the cold autumn that the wine of that year’s harvest was ready to be opened. In Portuguese, there are even some popular sayings about this phenomenon: “No São Martinho, vai à adega e abre o vinho” (On Saint Martin’s day, go to the cellar and open the wine), “Pelo São Martinho, prova o teu vinho” (For the sake of Saint Martin, taste your wine) or “No Dia de São Martinho, lume, castanhas e vinho” (On Saint Martin’s day, stove, chestnuts and wine).

Água-pé is very popular specially in the north of the country, also during other festivities in the autumn and winter time. It has less alcohol than wine (around 8%) and is the result of adding water to the grape marc and schnapps. Hence the name: literally translated it means water foot, because the water was added to the bottom of the wort.

In the past, the água-pé was considered the wine of the poor or the champagne of the people (since in certain regions it is slightly sparkling), because it was cheap and given out to workers by their employers.

In some places, hunters would take it in demijohns to work and share it between them.

Nowadays, there aren’t that many producers of the água-pé anymore, but a few are still dedicated to the keeping up the tradition of the Saint Martin’s água-pé that goes so well with autumn’s favorite roasted chestnuts.