Discover the 10 most used Portuguese grapes in wine production
Portugal is a country that has a great tradition in the cultivation of grapes and wine production. Today, it can be considered one of the world’s largest and most important wine-producing countries, and Portugal also has a wide variety of native grapes.
Portugal is the third country with the highest number of grape varieties, behind only France and Italy.
According to a study by the University of Adelaide, Portugal has more than 250 native grapes.
This great variety of indigenous grapes, combined with the great diversity of soils and climates, give rise to different styles of wines.
Next, we will discuss the main Portuguese red and white grapes.
The participation of ancient peoples in the Portuguese wine culture
The history and cultivation of vines in Portuguese lands date back to 2000 BC when Tartessos, ancient peoples of the Iberian Peninsula, cultivated the first vines in the Sado and Tagus Valleys.
After Tartessos, some other peoples, such as the Phoenicians, Greeks, Celts, Iberians, and Romans, contributed to the increase of the Portuguese viticultural culture, introducing new varieties of grapes and implementing new winemaking techniques.
Portuguese red grapes
The Alfrocheiro grape is one of the native Portuguese grapes with a unique personality. It is typical of the Dão region, in the center-north of Portugal, called Portuguese Burgundy, for remaining faithful to the style of wine it produces, which is structured and persistent.
Although its central producing region is in Dão, the Alfrocheiro grape cultivation occurs in other areas of Portugal, such as Douro, Bairrada, Tejo, and Alentejo.
Like many Portuguese grapes, this variety is also known by other names. Tinta Bastardinha is the most widespread. Alfrocheiro is a Portuguese variety that produces balanced wines with excellent acidity and refined tannins. On the nose, it reveals notes of red fruits, such as blackberry and strawberry, and floral touches.
Alfrocheiro wine is a great companion for red meat, lamb, goat, and mature cheeses such as Gorgonzola and Provolone.
The Baga grape originates from the wine region of Bairrada in central Portugal. Baga is among the most important grapes in the Portuguese country, and it brings complexity, structure, and elegance to the wines it originates from.
Baga is also known as Tinta Bairrada, Tinta Bairradina, Tinta Fina, and Tinta Poeirinha.
The wines made with the Baga grape have a deep color, with marked acidity and a good tannic presence. On the nose, it reveals aromas of red fruits, tobacco notes, smoke nuances, and coffee touches.
The variety is known internationally for its robust reds, and they are concentrated examples with great aromatic power and color intensity. Baga also composes beautiful rosés and unforgettable sparkling Blanc de Noir, a sparkling white wine made from red grapes.
Try pairing Baga wine with pasta, red meat, pork, and game birds such as duck.
Castelão is a Portuguese red grape variety known in the Setúbal region as Periquita. Although it is grown throughout the country, mainly in Setúbal, Alentejo, Douro, and Lisbon, this grape stands out primarily in the southern coastal regions of Setúbal and Alentejo. Sometimes it is included in the composition of Port Wine.
The wines made with the Castelão grape are structured with remarkable tannins and great aging potential. The nose reveals aromas of red fruits, such as plum, currant, raspberry, and cherry, with floral notes and touches of smoke.
Castelão wine is a good companion at the table, harmonizing with dishes based on red meat, pasta, and risotto.
The Trincadeira grape originates from Portugal and is cultivated in Alentejo, Douro, and Tejo wine regions.
Trincadeira is also known as Tinta Amarela, Trincadeira Preta, Mortágua, Preto Martinho, Espadeiro, Murteira, Crato Preto, Castiço and Santarém.
Trincadeira wines are elegant, with good acidity and refined tannins. On the nose, it reveals floral notes, herbaceous nuances, and aromas of red fruits, such as raspberries, and touches of spices, such as pepper, cloves, and cinnamon.
Trincadeira wine goes well with red meat, pork, lamb, and veal.
The Touriga Franca grape originates from the Douro wine region in Portugal.
Touriga Franca was also known as Touriga Francesa and Tinta Francesa. But an ordinance of the year 2000 defined the official nomenclature as Touriga Franca.
Touriga Franca is one of the most used Port wine blends. It is aromatic and gives the drink complexity of aromas and more elegance.
It is possible to find excellent blends with Touriga Nacional and other grapes and delicious varietals.
The wines made with the Touriga Franca grape are elegant, with a firm structure, great body, and excellent aging potential. The nose reveals aromas of ripe red fruits, such as blackberry, and floral notes, such as rose and rock rose.
Regarding pairing, Touriga Franca wine is versatile, going well with red meat, game, and lamb.
The Touriga Nacional grape originates from the Dão wine region and is considered the Queen of Grapes in Portugal.
The Touriga Nacional grape is noble, authentic, and the primary representative of Portuguese native grapes considered a true Lusitanian treasure. This variety composes blends with a lot of energy but also originates varietals of unique quality.
Touriga Nacional is noticed for making still (carbon-free) or sparkling and liqueur (fortified) wines. It is one of the most used grapes in Port wine and certainly one of the ones responsible for its fame.
The Portuguese grape variety Touriga Nacional is also known as Azal Tinta, Preto de Mortágua, Mortágua Preto, Mortágua, Bical Tinto, Turiga, Touriga, Touriga Fina, Tourigão, Tourigo Antigo and Tourigo do Dão.
The wines made with the Touriga Nacional grape are elegant and full-bodied, with a good concentration of color, refined tannins, and excellent aging potential. On the nose, it reveals aromas of ripe black fruits, such as blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, and plum, floral notes, such as violet and menthol nuances, as well as touches of vanilla, spices, and chocolate.
Touriga Nacional wine is a great companion for dishes based on red meat, pork, and lamb.
White Portuguese Grapes
The Alvarinho grape originates from Minho, within the Vinho Verde wine region, in northern Portugal. However, the Spaniards try to claim its origin, claiming that the grape is from the Spanish region of Galizia.
One of the most important white grape varieties in Portugal, Alvarinho is also found in Spain, where it goes by the name of Albariño.
The wines made with the Alvarinho grape are fresh, with a good body and great acidity. On the nose, they reveal fruity aromas, such as quince, banana, peach, lemon, passion fruit, and lychee, floral notes, such as violet and orange blossom, nuances of honey, and touches of almonds.
Alvarinho wine is versatile when pairing, going well with salads, poultry, fish, and seafood.
The Antão Vaz grape originates from the small village of Vidigueira, in the Alentejo wine region in Portugal, and is considered the white pride of the Alentejo.
This grape adapts very well to the Alentejo terroir, especially the Alentejo plains, and is heat-resistant.
The wines made with the Antão Vaz grape have vibrant acidity, great structure, and high alcohol content. On the nose, they reveal aromas of tropical fruits, such as pineapple, papaya, and tangerine, in addition to mineral nuances.
Antão Vaz wine goes well with salads, poultry, fish, and seafood.
Among the white grapes, Arinto stands out, which originates from Bucelas, within the municipality of Lourdes, near Lisbon, in Portugal.
The Portuguese white grape is one of the oldest varieties in the country.
Arinto is a Portuguese white grape variety called Pedernã, Pé de Perdiz Branco, Chapeludo, Cerceal, Azal Espanhol, Azal Galego, and Branco Espanhol.
Its main characteristic is the freshness originating from the acidity commonly found in wines produced from Arinto. Due to its high acidity, it is also used in elaborating sparkling wines. Some of its wines still have the potential to age in the bottle, adding complexity.
The variety has enormous potential for producing fresh wines, such as sparkling wines.
Arinto’s acidity brings with it citrus aromas – such as green apple, Sicilian lemon, and Persian lime. Among the fruity notes, it is also possible to find labels of more complex constructions, with notes of passion fruit, peach, and apricot.
Try pairing Arinto wine with dishes based on fish and seafood.
The Fernão Pires grape is one of the country’s most cultivated and known white grapes. Originally from Portugal, it is cultivated in the Douro and Bairrada regions, known as Maria Gomes.
Records show that the variety was already cultivated in the Douro region during the 18th century.
Also read: Portuguese Wine Regions
Other names for the Fernão Pires grape include Gaeiro, Fernão Pirão, and São Amaral.
The wines made with the Fernão Pires grape are complex and structured, with good alcohol content. They reveal floral notes on the nose, such as roses, citrus aromas like orange, lemon, and tangerine, and spice nuances.
Fernão Pires wine is a great companion for pork, poultry, fish, and seafood.