A Deep Dive into Portuguese Wines
Most of us have sipped a lovely glass of Port as an after-dinner treat, but did you know that this fortified wine’s country of origin has so much more to offer?
From popular table wines to exotic varietals, Portugal’s wine industry is versatile and booming. The country’s scenery also provides a vast range of climates and terrain, so there is nothing short of its natural beauty.
Let’s explore Portugal’s landscapes and see what its wine scene is all about.
Portuguese Wines by Region
Because Portugal’s regions are so interconnected with their famous wines, we must look at all of them to gain a complete perspective. Grab your vacation gear and get ready for a tasting tour. We’ve got fourteen famous wine regions to cover!
Home to nine subregions, Vinho Verde sits at the top of Northern Portugal. It is most famous for its young variations of red, white, and rose wines that are crisp and aromatic. Perhaps the most well-known varietal comes in the form of a sparkling white wine (Vinho Branco) of the same name. Vinho Verde is extra refreshing when sipped on the breezy coasts of Mainland Portugal. This white wine also comes in red wine (Vinho Tinto) and Rosé (Vinho Rosé) forms.
Porto and Douro
The Douro Valley is famously home to Portugal’s finest grape variety, Touriga Nacional, a black-skinned noir grape. This wine-producing region boasts the country’s highest wine classification, the Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC). Douro is also known for producing the beloved fortified wine, Port (Vinho do Porto). Here you’ll find everything from the young Ruby Port to the age-worthy Tawny Port as well as White Port and Reserve Port.
Douro is one of Portugal’s leading red wine producers, with other well-known grape varieties like Tinta Rouriz, Touriga Francesca, Tinta Barroca, and Tinta Cao, all used to make the spirited dessert wine.
In this region, you’ll also find the city of Port, located near Vila Real and the Douro River. This area has been one of the leading exporters of Port wine for several centuries.
Isolated by mountainous terrain, it’s the dry, boiling summers and icy winters that produce red wines in both robust and aromatic forms. Because this region is so remote and of a much higher altitude than neighboring Douro, it can be difficult to travel to.
If you do happen to grab your hiking boots and make the trek, you can sample the famous full-bodied, high-alcohol red wine, Transmontano. Trás-os-Montes also produces the prized Vinho dos Mortos (the Wine of the Dead), which was historically coveted by France.
Resting along the borders of the Douro DOC, Tavora-Varosa is most famous for its sparkling wines. If you love Champagne bursting with refreshing acidity, Pinot Noir, or Chardonnay, you can find all these wines in this small region.
Baga is the most widely harvested grape variety in Bairrada and is at the heart of most of this region’s red wines and sparkling wines. Wines like Tinto Bairrada and Branco Bairrada range from incredibly robust and tannic to delicate and perfumey. If you love a breezy sparkling white wine with a hint of beeswax textures, don’t shy away from Brut Bairrada.
Southwest of Douro lies the mountainous, forested Dao region. It is here where the rugged, granite soils produce robust, highly tannic red wine grapes that are prime for aging. Labeled under the same name as the region, Dao red wines range from medium to full-bodied and boast decadent flavors of raspberry, licorice, spice, black fruit, chocolate, and mocha. Wine experts have deemed Dao a region to watch in terms of quality.
Inundated with snowfall in the winter and short, hot summers, growing grapes in this mountainous region is quite a challenge. The red wines here are incredibly fruity and juicy, complemented by herbaceous, smoky notes. Tinto Beira is one of this region’s most famous red wines and is made from DOC grapes like Touriga Nacional.
White wines in Beira Interior, like Branco Beira, are lean and chalky with an intense mineral finish.
Also known as Lisbon, this region is just below Central Portugal. Lisbon is Portugal’s largest city and is also its capital. The region rests along the west coast and reaps the benefits of the Atlantic Ocean, which provides Lisboa’s mostly white wine grapes with high acidity and bright aromas. Lisboa consists of three subregions; Colares, Bucelas, and Carcavelos, all famous for their elegant, dry white wines.
With sandy beaches and lush red wines similar to those in Australia, you will find juicy, spice-infused Syrah and Tempranillo in the Algarve region. Most of these delicious reds are made with the Touriga Nacional grape, meaning that Algarve’s wines are nothing short of supreme quality. This region lies in the southernmost part of Portugal.
Located in the heart of Portugal lies the Tejo region, which is the largest producer of most table wines you will find in the United States. When visiting Alentejo (or Tejo for short), you will find everything from Cabernet Sauvignon to Merlot to Chardonnay and much more. Keep an eye out for those made from famous Portuguese grapes like Touriga Nacional, Arinto, and Malvasia Fina.
Alentejo is Portugal’s largest wine region and produces some of the best Portuguese red wines with plum, spice, and pepper flavors.
Along the Tagus River lies the Península de Setúbal, which is just above the southern Algarve region. This coastal region’s sandy terroir is perhaps most famous for producing the sweet and fruity dessert wine, Moscatel de Setúbal. Port may have found a competitor in Moscatel de Setúbal, as this golden fortified wine tastes like honey, dried apricots, and caramel, depending on the type.
Azores and Madeira Islands
Moving on to Portugal’s autonomous regions, you won’t find these places in Continental Portugal. Azores (also known as Pico Island) and Madeira are known for producing sweet, tart, and smoky wines grown in volcanic soils. Azores is explicitly famous for Vinho de Cheiro, which is a light red wine that is sweet and fragrant. It is also very low in alcohol, which makes it an easy sipper.
In Madeira, the most famous wine this region produces is, in fact, Madeira, which is a fortified wine popular for both sipping and drinking. This wine has a distinct salt and pepper flavor with common notes of orange peel, caramel, hazelnut, peach, and brown sugar. It is both a sweet and savory treat.
Continue Exploring Portuguese Wines!
Now that we’ve traveled through Portugal’s wine regions, you’ll be able to recognize the country’s most prolific varietals.
Want more wine region deep dives? Visit the Macy’s Wine Shop Blog for all the wine information you’ll need!