Portuguese Wine Regions
In recent years, Portuguese wine has gained enormous popularity across the world, and more and more tourists have started visiting Portugal exhibiting profound interest in their gastronomy and wine. When we think of wine from Portugal, Port Wine is almost obviously the first thing that comes to our minds. This fortified wine from the Douro region in Portugal has been a fantastic ambassador for Portuguese wines. However, it represents only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this country’s winemaking traditions.
In 1756, the Marquis of Pombal delimited the Douro Valley region as the only authentic producer of Port and thus began classifying Portuguese wine in this region. Currently, there are 55 different wine regions in Portugal, with roughly 39 of them being classed as Denominaço of Origen Contolada (DOC).
Most Portuguese wines are produced from a combination of almost 200 native grape varietals. These blended wines are usually designated by region, and they adhere to regional rules.
Did You Know: To have a single grape’s name on a Portuguese wine label, the wine must contain at least 85% of that grape variety.
There are around 50 wine regions in Portugal, but just a few of the well-known regions. They have been briefly described as follows:
- Minho: Minho is located in the northwest corner of Portugal and is home to Portugal’s famous white wine, Vinho Verde (literally, “green wine“). This low-alcohol and slightly effervescent wine is prepared from a blend of any of 25 permitted white grape varieties, including Alvarinho, Trajadura, Loureiro, and Pedersen, and is often enjoyed young (Arinto). Moreover, there is also “red” Vinho Verde, but it is rarely exported.
- Douro Valley: It is Portugal’s oldest wine region and home to the most famous Portuguese Port wine; a sweet, fortified wine produced from a blend of red grapes, such as Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinto Co, Touriga Franca, and Touriga Nacional. Furthermore, the same red grapes that are used to make Port are also utilized to make table wines in the Douro. In these dry wines, raspberry and stone fruit aromas are prominent.
- Bairrada: The Bairrada region is famous for its red wine, which is dominated by the Baga grape. It accounts for at least 50% of any Bairrada red. The word “barracuda” originates from the Portuguese word “clay,” which refers to the region’s predominant soil type. Besides its famous red wine, this region also produces the majority of blended sparkling wine in the country, which is created from white grape varietals, including Bical and Malvasia Fina.
- Do: Located just south of the Douro, the Do region produces approximately 80% red wine from a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Alfrocheiro Preto, Jaén, and Bastardo grapes. Moreover, it also produces the Encruzado white grape, which is used to generate a varietal wine with aging potential.
- Setúbal: The Setúbal region—located 20 miles from the Portuguese capital, Lisboa (Lisbon)—offers a fragrant, fortified dessert wine produced mainly from Moscatel de Setbal and Moscatel Roxo grapes left on the skins for up to six months.
- Alentejo: The Alentejo region is the largest winemaking area in the country. It is located in Southeast Portugal, shares a border with Spain, and is famed for its plummy red wines produced from native grapes, including Alva (Roupeiro), Alicante Bouschet, Periquita (Castelo), Aragonez (Tempranillo), and Trincadeira Preta, which are traditionally fermented in amphorae. Two French varietals—Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah—are also produced in Alentejo wine blends.
- Algarve: The Algarve region—located on the Atlantic coast—is a popular wine tourism destination in Portugal. The famous sub-regions of Algarve include Lagos, Portimo, Lagoa, and Tavira.
- Madeira: Madeira is a Portuguese island located off the coast of North Africa that produces a fortified white wine of the same name that is available in both dry and sweet varieties. Madeira wines are famous in the US due to a long history of importation. Another favorite grape variety—Verdelho, a white grape used to make varietal wines—is also grown in the Madeira region.