Távora-Varosa, the First Sparkling Wine Demarcated Region in Portugal

Távora-Varosa was the first demarcated region for sparkling wines in Portugal. This region is located to the north by DOC Douro and to the south by DOC Dão and is the smallest Denomination of Controlled Origin in the country.

Its regulation took place on November 15, 1989. But the production of the drink dates back to the 17th century, with the Cistercian monks who inhabited the region.

The region has the Denomination of Controlled Origin (DOC Távora-Varosa) and the Geographical Indication Terras de Cister. The body responsible for wine certification is the Regional Wine Commission of Távora–Varosa.

The great notoriety of Távora-Varosa wines comes from its sparkling wines, produced in the region since the 17th century by the Cistercian Monks.

The participation of Monks in Távora-Varosa wines

The Cistercian Monks arrived in Portugal in the 12th century at King D. Afonso Henriques’s invitation to establish a monastery in Portugal.

There is a legend that in 1138, on the banks of the Távora and Varosa Rivers, three monks decided to build monasteries among the valleys, thus discovering this region where the Romans, Swabians, and Visigoths already had a past.

In 1143, the Cistercian monks built and founded the monastic triangle with the Monastery of São João de Tarouca, the Monastery of Santa Maria de Salzeda, and the Convent of Santo António de Ferreirim, in Távora, in the Varosa region.


The Monastery of São João Tarouca was the first monastery on the Iberian Peninsula.

The arrival of the monks to this region is of great importance in the history of wine production in Távora-Varosa, as the monks around the monasteries cultivated the first vines.

Vine cultivation and wine production have played an essential role in the region’s economy.

The Monastery of Santa Maria de Salzedas has become an important center of culture and spirituality in Portugal. The monks cultivated the land around the monastery and produced wine, other agricultural products, illuminated manuscripts, and other artistic objects. They also welcomed pilgrims who came to the region to visit the nearby Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Lapa.

During the Middle Ages, the Cistercian Monks in Távora Varosa played a vital role in Portugal’s religious and cultural life. Over time, the monastery faced several challenges, including the Protestant Reformation and the Peninsular War. At the end of the 18th century, the monks abandoned the sanctuary, which ended up deteriorating.

Today, the Monastery of Santa Maria de Salzedas is a popular tourist attraction in Távora Varosa. Its ruins are an impressive testament to the history and culture of the Cistercian Monks in Portugal.

Terroir of Távora-Varosa

Távora-Varosa region map

The region covers an area of 3000 hectares of vineyards, extending across the municipalities of Lamego, Tarouca, Moimenta da Beira, Armamar, Tabuaço, São João da Pesqueira, Sernancelhe and Penedono.

The characteristics of the Távora-Varosa terroir allow for obtaining fresh wines with high acidity, ideal for elaborating sparkling wines.

Located in the mountains that extend south of the Douro, at the southern base of Serra da Nave, between the Paiva and Távora rivers. The vines are planted at an altitude between 500m and 800m in sandy-clay granitic soil, with reduced water retention capacity.

The altitude of the vines and the characteristics of the moderately rich soils provide the grapes with a balanced maturation.

The growing season is about eight months between March and November.

Due to the altitude and long, cold winters, the climate has a strong continental influence, with hot and dry summers. The maximum temperature in the summer can be over 30ºC, and the temperature range during the grape maturation months can reach 20ºC.

Viticulture and production at DOC Távora-Varosa

To be entitled to the DOC Távora-Varosa seal, the wines produced need the vines to have at least four years of grafting and a maximum yield per hectare of 80 hl for red wines and 90 hl for white and rosé wines.

A great part of the wine production in DOC Távora-Varosa is sparkling wines, but they also produce still wines.

Allowed castes in the DOC Távora-Varosa

The grape varieties to be used in the production of wines entitled to DOC Távora–Varosa are Alvarelhão, Aragonez, Tinta Roriz, Baga, Bastardo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grand-Noir, Jaen, Malvasia -Preta, Marufo, Pinot Noir, Rufete, Tinta Barroca, Touriga -Franca, Touriga -Nacional, Trincadeira and Vinhão (or Sousão); and the whites Arinto, Bical, Chardonnay, Cerceal, Dona Branca, Fernão Pires, Folgasão, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Malvasia Rei, Pinot Blanc, Côdega-de-Larinho, Rabo-de-Ovelha, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Syria, Talia, Vedelho, Roupeiro, Gewurztraminer and Pinot -Gris.

Wines other than those authorized/recommended varieties are labeled with the Terras de Cister Geographical Indication seal. This also applies to wines produced outside the DOC’s geographic boundaries and those using unrelated winemaking techniques.

What to Expect from DOC Távora-Varosa Sparkling Wines

The sparkling wines from Távora-Varosa are aromatic, with a fine and constant perlage. In the mouth, they are fresh and very fruity. Even those classified as Super Reserve, which has spent at least three years on the lees, maintain their light and fruity character, and the secondary aromas, which come from the autolysis of the yeasts, are almost invisible. Távora-Varosa sparkling wines can be white, rosé, or red and must have at least 11% alcohol by volume.

Sparkling wines produced at DOC Távora-Varosa must be made using the traditional method, with a minimum aging period of nine months in the bottle.

It is authorized to use the most from the first three pressings. As in Champagne, in Távora-Varosa, “Vin de Réserve” is also authorized. That is, using wines from previous harvests to homogenize the drink. This practice is only authorized for unsold sparkling wines.

For a Reserva, the internship period must be 12 months; for the Super-Reserva or Extra-Reserva, 24 months are necessary, and for the Velha Reserva or Grande Reserva, at least 36 months.

Pairing: what goes well with sparkling wines from Távora-Varosa

The Távora-Varosa sparkling wines are options to accompany meals in a great pairing. Because they have high acidity and are light and fruity, the wines combine with many recipes, from cold starters to greasy dishes and desserts.

The Brut or Blanc de Blanc can accompany a cheese board, canapés, seafood salads, and risottos. For more structured dishes and/or dishes with meat in their composition, such as carpaccio, charcuterie, and roast suckling pig, bet on a Blanc du Noir or a Rosé. As for dessert, the option is a demi-sec or sweet, as the drink has to have a degree of sweetness equal to or greater than the dish. But the sparkling wines from Távora-Varosa have enough complexity and flavor to be served alone.

Wine tourism in Tavora Varosa

The Route of the Cistercian Vineyards runs through and merges with the Távora-Varosa Demarcated Region. In Terras de Cister, a name derived from the ancient Religious Order that settled in the region, there are superb landscapes and historic architecture to discover. There are also festivals and pilgrimages where you can try some of the region’s gastronomic delicacies.

In Varosa, where the Cistercian Monks chose to build their temples several centuries ago, you can still appreciate some of the most important treasures and jewels of the national heritage even today. The route encompasses a diverse offer of cultural and historical experiences. In Lamego, it is worth visiting the Cathedral with the 686 steps of the staircase of the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios.

Also read: A Biography on the Famous Monastery Winery in Burgundy

In Tarouca, the classified National Monument and the Monastery of S. João de Tarouca keep alive the dynamic spirit of the monks, who soon shaped the region in their image, working the land, cultivating the vineyard, instilling norms and traditions that last until today. Further south, in Serra da Lapa, is located one of the oldest Portuguese sanctuaries, the Chapel of Senhora da Lapa, built in the 17th century by the Jesuits, and close by, the Monastery of Nossa Senhora da Assunção de Tabosa, belonging to the nuns of the Order of Cister.

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Categories: This Day in Wine History | ArticlesBy Published On: August 4, 2023Last Updated: February 29, 2024

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