5 Of The Best Wine Regions Of Portugal
Located on the Iberian peninsula next to Spain is Portugal, the westernmost country of mainland Europe. This beautiful country has much to offer from the picture perfect scenery of the turquoise waters in Algarve, to the historic Belem, Portugal will definitely make an interesting destination.
This post is of course about the wine regions in the country and the best ones for you to visit, explore, indulge in drink and enjoy.
The country that is sometime referred to as the poorer cousin of Spain, is in fact one of the oldest regulated wine regions in the world. The wine traditions here go back to as for as the time of the Roman Empire. When Portugal used to export its wines to Rome. Further exports began to England after 1703, and by 1758 Região Demarcada do Douro was created as one of the first wine-producing region in the world.
Fun Fact: Douro Vinhateiro (Douro Valley Wine Region) and Ilha do Pico Vinhateira (Pico Island Wine Region) are UNESCO world heritage sites.
Portugal has several varieties of native grapes that contributes to the large variety of wines of the country. There are over 250 native grape varieties that mostly won't be available anywhere else. You can learn more about the different varietal here.
It is no surprise that Portugal has a wide array of wines to offer and has been gaining international recognition.
*Kim Marcus of Wine Spectator* wrote in the June, 2005 issue that Portugal “has emerged from the shadows to become one of the most interesting and exciting red wine regions in the world today”.
Truthfully enough, there are many wine regions in the country. From Vinho Verde to Algarve as well as the islands of Madeira and Azores. Here we will list the best wine regions of Portugal.
Alentejo won the #1 spot for USA Today's Reader's Choice award for the best wine region to visit. Though most would think of Duoru as their first pick, head a little further down south to Alentejo, and you will be pleasantly surprised. The region occupies one-third of Portugal, that's huge!
Image: Tour with Rota dos Vinhos do Alentejo
Covered with vast open countryside with undulating plains and rich fertile soil, most towns here rely on agriculture, livestock and forestry. You will be able to find traditional wines, cheeses, smoke hams and sausages made in the region during your trip.
Alentejo has the most Atlantic climate in Portugal, with cool summers and mild winters that result in wine that is not overly ripe or jammy. Enotourism is big business here, though it is one of the least visited areas in Portugal.
The district of Evora is where you would want to head to. Located 90 minutes from Lisbon by car, this picturesque town is perfect for those who want to explore the wine region of Alentejo. The town is surrounded by medieval walls and Roman ruins.
Rota dos Vinhos do Alentejo is a place where visitors will have the opportunity to tour some of the most celebrated wineries of the region. Be sure to make an advance booking that will allow you to have a guided tour of the vineyards, cellars and tastings of selected wines. If you're lucky, you might even meet the producers themselves who will elaborate on their process and answer any questions you might have. The Rota dos Vinhos do Alentejo is coordinated from a showroom in Evora.
Here is a little tip however, you will find an old winery Cartuxa at Quinta de Valbom, that was formerly used by monks and dates back to 1776. If you're feeling a little more adventurous to head there.
Image: Vineyard in Dao
The region is famous for producing some of the best red wines of the country. Located further up north from Alentejo, the region is centered around the old city of Visue. The region is surrounded by mountains on all sides, protecting it from the chill of the ocean and continental climates. It is also 200 meters above sea level making it high country.
Due to its location and high altitude that results in cool nights in the region, it allows for slower ripening, good acidity and aroma from the wines.
Paço dos Cunhas de Santar is a modern wine tasting facility and also has a restaurant. It was once a 17th century manor house, built in 1609 by D. Pedro da Cunha, imitating the Italian Renaissance. It was converted in 2008 into what it is today. Located in Santar in Dao, its surroundings are peaceful and filled with history. Here you can arrange for wine tasting sessions, workshops and even a tour of the vineyards.
Fun Fact: The Pedro and Inês wine, named after Portugal's star-crossed lovers.
Located right next to the Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the city of Lisbon is the wine region of Lisboa, which was known as Estremadura until recently in 2009. Lisbon is also called Lisboa in Portuguese, so don't get confused. You will find a wide variety of styles in vast quantities, as the region produces a lot of wine. The region also has 9 DOCs.
The coastal vineyards here are definitely wind-stressed and hard pressed to ripen their grapes. However, the eastern part of the region is sheltered from the harshness from hills and mountains. Many top wine estates are in and around Alenquer, a DOC region to the east of the Serra de Montejunto. The area is a little warmer and less windy, allowing for the grapes to ripen well and potential for top class reds.
Arruda is another DOC region, also protected behind the hills, to the south of Alenquer. Due to its location it is cooler and windier. The region also relaxed their grape restrictions in 2002, allowing for some new national and international grape selections such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Touriga Franca, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
Carcavelos makes wine in smaller quantities. An area located just west of the capital, the wines here are nearly always sweet and made from local grapes.
The south-most region of Portugal, the area is blessed with something of 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, with the weather being not too hot nor too cold and just perfect. It borders with the Alentejo region to the north and has beautiful mountains protecting it from hot, dry winds from the north. It was also thought that the Tartessians were the first to produce wine in the region as early as 2000 b.c.
The main towns that lead the way as the region's main wine DOCs are Lagos, Portimão, Lagoa and Tavira. They do make small quantities of white wine, but the region predominantly produces reds. Traditionally, the wine made here are reds that have a high alcohol content, fruity flavor and full-body.
Vida Nova is a label from a vineyard that is privately owned by famous singer Sir Cliff Richards. Other labels from the region are Monte de Casteleja at Lagos, Barranco Longo at Algos and Quinta dosQuinta dos Correias at Luz de Tavira.
Note that most of the wines here are low in acidity, but full in body and aroma as well as being rich in taste.
The beautiful island of Madeira is famous for wines that can be kept for a good amount of time. The island is out on the Atlantic, south of Portugal and has beautiful landscapes for your visual pleasure, such as the Laurel Forest in Madeira, which is classified as a UNESCO heritage site. Madeira also enjoys mild temperatures all year around
There is a variety of wines available from Madeira, whether you like it dry or sweet you will surely be able to find one to suit your preference. The vines here grow in deep valleys and steep slopes on volcanic soils that are rich in organic matter.
The grapes are high in acidity, that is a distinguishing feature of Madeira wines. There is a small variety of grapes here known as the ‘noble' varieties. It includes Sercial, Verdelho, Boal, Malvasia (sometimes called Malmsey) and the rarer Terrantez, and they are all white.
Tinta Negra is a variety that is planted in 80% vineyards in Madeira and s used to be made into all four traditional sweetness - dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet and sweet.
Madeira is also a very popular area for tourists, especially during new year celebrations. They were awarded a Guinness world record for largest fireworks display in the world in 2006/07. The island is also listed as one of our most underrated spots to celebrate the new year!