Experience Portuguese wines without leaving home

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It might not have quite the same prestige as a classic French vintage, or the New World cool of a Californian NV (nonvintage), but Portuguese vinho has a rich history that spans more than 2500 years, placing it firmly among the world’s very best. The first wines were bought to the country by the Phonecians, Greeks, and Romans, with archelogical evidence indicating that the Portuguese were enjoying imported wine as early as the 7th century B.C. However, it wasn’t too long before homegrown wines were being produced, and by the 5th century B.C a unique Portuguese tradition was born.

The country’s love of wine drove innovation, and its fertile soils and range of micro-climates led to the production of wide variety of wines with distinctive personalities. In 1758, the Região Demarcada do Douro was created by the Marquis do Pombal, one of the first dedicated wine-producing regions in the world. Around the same time, the Portuguese also implemented one of the first appellation systems (a set of regulations that dictate how wine is classified, labelled and, in some cases, produced) in the world—some 200 years before that of France! 

But that’s enough about history of Portuguese wine, we know you’re dying for a taste! However, with such a wide variety available, it can be hard to know where to start. Here then, we look at some of the best Portuguese wines available today from some of the most famous producing regions in the world. So, take a trip with us through the unique Vinhedos (vineyards) and Adegas (wineries) of Portugal and find your perfect pour from the comfort of home!

Port

Probably Portugal’s most famous export, the origins of Port lie within the rich, schist soils of the Douro region and it was historically exported from the city of Porto, hence the name. Today, the Alto Douro wine region is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it produces a wide range of varieties that include familiar names such as Tawny, White, Ruby, and Late Bottled Vintage (L.B.V.).

The grapes that produce the unique flavours of Port are mainly indigenous to Portugal and include Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa or Tinta Barroca that grow in ambundance on the steep rocky hillsides bordering the Douro River. Generally speaking, Port wine is sweet and features a rich texture. It is traditionally served as a dessert wine, although depending on the variety, it may also be paired easily with a variety of foods.


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Vinho Verde

Portugal’s second most commonly exported wine, Vinho Verde (green wine) get its name from the fact that the grapes used in its production are slightly underripe. It originates form the Minho province in the far north-west of Portugal and as six famous regions: Monção, Lima, Braga, Penafiel, Basto, and Amarante.

Vinho Verde is most commonly white, with popular sparkling varieties delivering a refreshing and delicate flavour. There are, however, are also red and rose varieties which retain the light colours and fresh aromas. A special variety of white Vinho Verde that is produced in Alvarinho is restricted by EU law to a small sub-region of Monção.


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Douro

Traditionally famous for Port wine, the Douro region also produces a huge range of reds, whites, and rosés. However, it wasn’t until 1952, after Fernando Nicolau de Almeida’s inspirational trip to Bordeaux, that run-of-the-mill table wine became more ambitious.

Today, Douro wines span the gamut, from sweet whites to crisp and light-bodied reds, relying on a broad range of locally grown grapes including the black grapes Bastardo, Mourisco tinto, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Francesa and Touriga Nacional, and the white grapes Donzelinho branco, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato, and Viosinho.


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Dão

Protected from maritime and continental influences by the surrounding mountains, the temperate climate of the Região Demarcada do Dão has enjoyed some elements of protection as wine producing region since the late 14th century. 80% of production is in red wines, and DOC regulations state that at least 20% of production must be from Touriga Nacional grapes.

Modern production has led to fruitier reds that have replaced older wines high in tannins, and whites that are fresh and fragrant replacing full-bodies wines. Most of the wines in this region are aged in French or Portuguese oak barrels, and you may find the highest quality reserves carrying the Dão nobre (noble Dão) designation.


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Alentejo

Historically known for its cork production, the rolling planes of Alentejo produce some of the most Portugal’s popular wine in the country thanks to the long summers of unbroken sunshine. The region uses the Alentejano VR (Vinho Regional) designation, with some areas also designated Alentejo DOC (Denominação de Origem Controlada).

Roman influences are still present in the region’s winemaking process, with some producers

using ancient amphorae (terracotta containers) to age the wine. Alentejo reds are often intense and full-bodied, while whites are smooth and refreshing, additionally, the aromas of both are usually fruity.

Bairrada

Produced in the Região Demarcada da Bairrada, the Bairraida name comes from the Portuguese word for clay (barro) and reflects the composition of the soils in the area. The ancient vineyards were classified in 1979, but a long history of winemaking in the region has led to a range of whites and reds, as well as sparkling natural wine unique to the area.

Baga grapes are most commonly used in red wine production, although Alfrocheiro-Preto, Tinta Pinheira and Touriga Nacional, as well as international red grapes varieties such as Merlot and Syra are also common. These varietals lead to bell pepper and black current flavours. White wine production relies on Arinto, Bical, Cercial and Maria Gomes, and Chardonnay, leading to fruity and vibrant flavours.

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