Wine & Knowledge

Varietals

Alvarinho

This northern grape is one of Portugal's finest and most characterful. It was one of the first Portuguese grape varieties to be bottled as a single variety. Its full-bodied, subtly fragrant white wines are easy to recognize, their complex but delicate aromas reminiscent of peach, lemon, passion fruit, lychee, orange zest, jasmin, orange blossom and lemon balm. The wines are delicious young, but they can also age well, often for ten years or more. Alvarinho grows mostly along the River Minho, right up in the north of the Vinho Verde region - the northern Vinho Verde sub-regions of Monção and Melgaço are its famous heartlands. Compared to other Vinho Verde, it makes richer wines, higher in alcohol. Alvarinho wines are vigorous, and care is needed to restrain their exuberant vegetation, yet grape yield is low, the bunches small, the grapes very pippy.

Antão Vaz

This is one of the most prized varieties of the Alentejo, until recently grown almost exclusively around Vidigueira. Well suited to the warm and sunny climate on the great plains of the Alentejo, it is reliable and productive, consistent in its ripening. The bunches are big and not too tightly packed, the grapes large, with tough skins. As a rule it produces firm, full-bodied, well-structured wines. Made as a single variety, it has lively aromas, with hints of ripe tropical fruits, tangerine peel and something mineral, along with good structure and body. If picked early, it gives wines with vibrant aroma and crisp acidity. Left to ripen longer, it can reach high levels of alcohol, making it a good candidate for barrel maturation. It is often blended with Roupeiro and Arinto, which contribute refreshing acidity.

Suggestions with this grape

Adega da Vila Regional Alentejano White / Dumonte Regional Tejo White

Arinto

This is a versatile grape, grown in most of Portugal's wine regions. In Vinho Verde country, it goes by the name of Pedernã. It makes vibrant wines with lively, refreshing acidity, often with a mineral quality, along with gentle flavours reminiscent of apple, lime and lemon. It makes some of its greatest wines in the small DOC region of Bucelas, just north of Lisbon, where it must account for at least 75 per cent of the wine. Its good acidity also makes it a great ingredient for sparkling wines. Arinto's medium-sized bunches are tightly packed with small grapes.

Suggestions with this grape

Bucellas DOC Bucelas White / Quinta do Boição Reserva DOC Bucelas White / Quinta do Boição Special Selection DOC Bucelas White / Cabeça de Toiro Reserva DOC DoTejo White / Serradayres Reserva DOC DoTejo White / Adega da Vila Regional Alentejano White / Lagosta Vinho Verde DOC White / Calamares Vinho Verde DOC White / Dumonte Regional Tejo White

Chardonnay

The Chardonnay grape variety is vinified in all wine worlds. These grapes green films are used to produce white wine. It is believed that this grape has its origins in the French region of “Borgonha”. The resulting wine this grape variety acquires many of the characteristics of the "terroir" which is planted and the type of maturity that is subjected. It is also a chaste widely used in sparkling wines including Champagne. It is one of the most planted grape varieties worldwide.

Suggestions with this grape

Cabeça de Toiro Reserva DOC DoTejo White

Encruzado

For the moment, these grapes are restricted very much to the DOC Dão, but watch this space. It is one of Portugal's absolutely top white grape varieties. The best examples have delicate aromas of roses and violets, light citrus notes, a touch of resin and, in certain conditions, intensely mineral notes. Amongst its virtues is the ability to maintain almost perfect balance between sugar and acidity, making serious, rich, structured wines with extraordinary ageing potential. It is used both as a single variety and as a star ingredient in many Dão blends. The Encruzado vine yields well, presenting no major problems in the vineyard.

Fernão Pires

This is one of Portugal's most planted grapes. It grows more or less all over the country, but is particularly important in the regions of Tejo, Lisboa and Bairrada. It's an aromatic variety - you might detect scents and flavours of lime, lemon, roses and other flowers, tangerines, oranges and it's best drunk young. It is also very versatile, sometimes used as a single variety, sometimes blended, sometimes used as a base wine for sparkling wine, and can also be harvested late to make sweet wines. Fernão Pires vines are frost-sensitive, and best suited to warm or hot climates.

Suggestions with this grape

Serradayres Reserva DOC DoTejo White

Loureiro

Although now widely disseminated throughout the Vinho Verde region, it seems that the Loureiro grape originated in the valley of the River Lima, towards the north of the VR Minho/DOC Vinho Verde region. "Loureiro" means "laurel" or "bay" and the aroma of Loureiro wines is said to resemble that of laurel flowers, also orange blossom, acacia and lime blossom, overlaying appley, peachy fruit. Loureiro wines usually have refreshing, well-balanced acidity. Loureiro is much in evidence nowadays bottled as a single variety, but traditionally it was more often blended with Arinto and Alvarinho, or with Trajadura. It is a very vigorous, high-yielding variety that has only recently been recognised as "noble". The bunches are elongated and relatively compact, bearing medium-sized, yellowish-greenish grapes.

Suggestions with this grape

Lagosta Vinho Verde DOC White / Calamares Vinho Verde DOC White

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a white grape variety originating from the region of Bordeaux, France. Sauvignon Blanc, one of the world's most prestigious grape varieties planted in many regions of the world wineries, producing daring and fresh varietal wines. Depending on climate, the flavor can range from an aggressive to a sweet tropical vegetable.

Suggestions with this grape

Cabeça de Toiro Reserva DOC DoTejo White

Trajadura

Originally from the north of the Vinho Verde region, the Trajadura makes wines with lower acidity and higher alcoholic strength than the other Vinho Verde grapes. This makes it a great candidate for blending in this cool, moist part of the country, where excessive acidity and low alcohol can be a problem even with vines trained in an efficient, modern way. Trajadura is a fairly aromatic variety, with gentle flavours of peach, apricot, apple and ripe pear and a pleasant touch of orange blossom. It is used in popular blends with Alvarinho, and with Loureiro and Arinto. Trajadura has a very long vegetative cycle, buds breaking early, grapes ripening late. The bunches are yellowish-green, tightly packed and medium sized. Yields are very generous.

Suggestions with this grape

Lagosta Vinho Verde DOC White / Calamares Vinho Verde DOC White

Source: www.winesofportugal.info ; http://www.guiadovinho.com.br

Alfrocheiro

This is a Dão grape by origin, but it has spread successfully southwards into the Alentejo, Tejo and Palmela regions because of its ability to retain good acidity even in hot climates. The wines are rich in colour with firm but ripe tannins and a good balance of tannins, alcohol, acidity and attractive berry fruit, reminiscent in particular of blackberries and ripe stawberries. The vines are vigorous, requiring more attention than many other varieties to keep the vegetation under control, and they are prone to attack by oidium and botrytis.

Suggestions with this grape

Catedral DOC Dão Reserva Red / Moura Basto DOC Dão Red / Moura Basto Tinto DOC Dão Juta Red

Alicante Bouschet

Alicante Bouschet is a variety of grape vitis vinifera family resulting from the crossing of Grenache and Petit Bouschet grapes. Currently it is grown mainly in Portugal. The region where it is grown is in Alentejo, where vines come into existence over 100 years. Some of the best wines of the region owe their quality to Alicante Bouschet, it adds them color, structure, concentration and longevity. Today, Alicante Bouschet, which is considered the "salt and pepper" of Alentejo wines, has increased its area in this region, where it forms part of the lots with Aragonez and Trincadeira.

Suggestions with this grape

Romeira Regional Alentejano Reserva Red / Romeira Colheita Seleccionada Regional Alentejano Red

Aragonez (Tinta Roriz)

This is one of the rare grape varieties to be prized on both sides of the border. Tempranillo to the Spanish, the Portuguese call it by two different names depending on the region: Aragonês and Tinta Roriz (the latter name is used only in the Dão and Douro regions). In recent years it has spread rapidly throughout the Dão, Ribatejo/Tejo and Lisboa regions. It can make rich, lively red wines that combine elegance and robustness, copious berry fruit and spicy flavour. It's an early variety (that's what "Tempranillo" means in Spanish). The vines are very vigorous and productive and adapt well to different climates and soils, altough it prefers hot, dry climates on sandy or clay-limestone soils. It tends to be blended with other varieties, typically Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca, and also with Trincadeira and Alicante Bouschet in the Alentejo.

Suggestions with this grape

Adega da Vila Regional Alentejano Red / Dumonte Regional Alentejano Red / Cardeal Reserva Colheita Seleccionada DOC Dão Red / Romeira Reserva Regional Alentejano Red / Romeira Colheita Seleccionada Regional Alentejano Red / Catedral DOC Dão Reserva Red / Magna Carta Regional Alentejano Reserva Red / D. Fuas DOC Dão Reserva Red

Cabernet Sauvignon

The Cabernet Sauvignon is the grape vinifera most prestigious in the world, grown in all producing regions and savored by all. It is called the "queen of red grapes”. Its origin is linked to the Bordeaux region and is a cross between the varieties Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.
All his success is due in part to the ability of this variety must retain its characteristics, aromas and flavors regardless of the region where it is grown.

Suggestions with this grape

Quinta S. João Batista Reserva DoTejo Red

Caladoc

It is a variety that resulted from a cross between Grenache and Cot. Has an average, somewhat compact and conical berry, is very productive and produces wines of good concentration. In Portugal it is especially in the Tejo and Lisboa being appreciated as caste batch.

Castelão

This is one of the most commonly-planted grapes in the south of the country. It is especially popular in the regions Tejo, Lisboa, Península de Setúbal and Alentejo, and is happiest in hot climates and dry, sandy soils. It performs at its best in the Palmela region of the Setúbal Peninsula south of Lisbon, in old vineyards in the hot, sandy soils around Poceirão. Castelão grapes from carefully-managed, low-yielding old vines can be made into well-structured wines with plenty of tannin and acidity, and fruit reminiscent of redcurrants, preserved plums and berries, sometimes with a hint of well-hung game. Castelão is rarely able to shake off a rustic character. The best examples can age very well.

Suggestions with this grape

Cabeça de Toiro DOC DoTejo Reserva Red

Jean

Jaen shows at its best in the Dão region, and that's where most of it is grown. The vines are vigorous, prone to mildew and botrytis infection and the grapes ripen early, providing low acidity and poor colour. At worst its wines are watery and acidic, at best highly perfumed, reminiscent of blackberry, blueberry and cherry. Despite a slightly rustic character, it can make early-drinking, soft, silky reds that are simple yet seductive.

Suggestions with this grape

D. Fuas DOC Terras do Dão Reserva Red

Merlot

This variety produces succulent and velvety, wine flavored plums and reach maturity sooner. The aroma is usually characterized as having notes of cherry and blackcurrant may also remember the roasted coffee. Its most delicate structure does not allow, as elemental wine has the longevity of Cabernet Sauvignon wines, despite the great complexity that can be achieved with the aging in bottle.

Syrah

Under satisfactory conditions of production, the wines are very colored, deep red with violet nuances during youth. The color intensity is always very persistent. The aromatic potential is very complex compounds with floral, fruity, spices and animals. The Syrah grape gives wines very rich in tannins. The tannic wealth, strength and range of wines make them guard wines.

Suggestions with this grape

Quinta do Boição Special Selection Red / Quinta do Boição Reserva Red / Quinta S. João Batista Reserva Red / Magna Carta Regional Alentejano Reserva Red

Touriga Franca

This is one of the structural pillars of red Douro blends, and also one of the five officially recommended grapes for port. It's the most widely planted grape in the Douro, currently accounting for around a fifth of total vineyard area, and it is now much planted right across the northern half of Portugal. The Touriga Franca makes richly-coloured, dense yet elegant wines with copious blackberry fruit and floral notes (roses, rock roses, wild flowers...) and firm but velvety tannins that contribute to the ageing potential of blends - it is often blended with Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. Apart from the quality of its wines, it is popular in the vineyard for its resistance to pests and diseases and its reliably good crops of healthy grapes.

Suggestions with this grape

Almagrande Reserva DOC Douro Red / Topázio DOC Douro Red

Touriga Nacional

Few would dispute that the Touriga Nacional is Portugal's finest red grape variety, deserving a place right up at the top of the world league of grapes, along with the likes of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo. Though Northern in origin, it has spread right across the country - you will find it down south in the Algarve and the Alentejo, out west in the Tejo and Setúbal regions, successfully competing with the local Baga grape in Bairrada, and way out mid-Atlantic in the Azores. Touriga Nacional is a thick-skinned grape, and those skins are rich in colour and tannins, giving excellent structure and ageing capacity. But it also has wonderful, intense flavours, at the same time floral and fruity - ripe blackcurrants, raspberries - with complex hints also of herbs and liquorice. Yields are never high. The Dão and Douro regions both claim to be the origin of this fine grape, and the rest of the winemaking world is beginning to wake up to its quality.

Suggestions with this grape

Almagrande DOC Douro Reserva Red / Topázio DOC Douro Red / Serradayres Regional Tejo Reserva Red / Casaleiro Regional Tejo Reserva Red / Catedral DOC Dão Reserva Red / Moura Basto DOC Dão Red / Cabeça de Toiro DOC DoTejo Reserva Red / Solo DOC Dão Reserva Red / D. Fuas Regional Terras do Dão Reserva Red / Caves Velhas DOC Dão Reserva Red Juta / Moura Basto DOC Dão Reserva Juta Red

Trincadeira

Rich in colour, with good acidity and rarely an excess of alcohol, Trincadeira (as it's known in the Alentejo) or Tinta Amarela (if you are speaking to a Douro producer) makes wines of serious quality when ripe, but it does not always achieve ripeness. Properly ripened, it has vibrant raspberry fruit tempered by herby, peppery, spicy, floral complexity, and it can age well. Under-ripe, it tastes herbaceous. It is a difficult vine to grow, producing exuberant amounts of foliage and needing constant trimming to prevent those vegetal flavours. Yields are generally high, but unreliable. It is very sensitive to rot and other vineyard diseases. For this reason it does better in hot, dry places, and is therefore particularly at home in the Alentejo and Ribatejo areas: these are the regions where it really shines. But it is grown throughout Portugal.

Suggestions with this grape

Romeira Reserva Regional Alentejano Red / Romeira Colheita Seleccionada Regional Alentejano Red / Serradayres Regional Tejo Reserva Red / Dumonte Red Regional Alentejano / Adega da Vila Red Regional Alentejano

Source: www.winesofportugal.info ; http://www.guiadovinho.com.br

Wine Styles

Designations of Origin

DOC or DOP (Protected Designation of Origin)

DOP applies to wine products with originality and individuality due to an inextricably link to a particular region, place or traditional denomination with specific characteristics deriving from the local terroir (geographic environment, natural and human factors).These wines are subject to strict rules of control in order to guarantee authenticity and quality and can be labelled as DOC.

IGP (Protected Geographical Indication)

IGP applies to wines from a specific region named on the label, produced with at least 85% of grapes of that region. Like DOP/DOC wines, they are subject to strict rules of control. These wines can be labelled as “Vinho Regional”.

Wine

 

 

Wine not fitting into the above categories is simply known as “Vinho” (the Portuguese word for Wine).

Source: Wines of Portugal - http://www.winesofportugal.info

Wine Regions

Vinho Verde

Vinho Verde is the biggest DOC of Portugal, up in the cool, rainy, verdant northwest. The vines grow in fertile, granite soils along rivers that flow from the mountains of the east to burst out into the ocean between golden surfing beaches. The outer boundaries of both the “Vinho Regional” Minho and DOC Vinho Verde are the same, stretching from the River Minho in the north, which forms Portugal’s border with Spain, as far down the coast as the city of Porto, but inland extending a further 30km south of the river Douro.

Cool, wet weather always makes ripening more difficult, but the climatic problems were long compounded in the region by the tradition of training vines along pergolas on the edges of fields, and sometimes up trees, in order to gain space and free up the centre of fields for other crops. Many smallholdings still often train grapes in this way.

Vinho Verde is still distinguished by its high acidity. Flavour depends on the grape varieties used - floral Loureiro, steely Trajadura, mineral Arinto, creamy and mineral Avesso, and the fine, mineral, subtly fragrant Alvarinho. Azal is hard to ripen and declining in popularity, and tends to get blended with more aromatic grapes. Most white Vinho Verde can be relied upon to be light, crisp and aromatic, often with a light prickle of fizz, sometimes with a touch of sweetness.

The fine Alvarinho grape rules around the towns of Melgaço and Monção along the Minho river. The climate here is warmer and drier, the maritime influence partially blocked by hills, and the combination of grape and climate makes for richer, fuller, subtly complex wines, made dry and totally still.

The DOC Vinho Verde has also permitted fully sparkling wines since 1999 – a growing and promising venture. And there is a lot of red Vinho Verde, too - dark, high in acidity, low in alcohol, made principally from the late-ripening red-fleshed Vinhão grape.

Trás-os-Montes

In the remote north east of Portugal, cut off from the coast by a series of mountain ranges, Trás-os-Montes is wild, high country, its soils poor and unproductive, granitic with here and there the odd patch of schist. The extreme continental climate brings long, hot summers followed by long, icy winters.

The region is divided into three sub-zones, Chaves, Valpaços and Planalto Mirandês, the first two in the centre of the region, while Planalto Mirandês is on the plateau of the Serra do Mogadouro in the south east, bordering on Spain.

The wines are a product of the high altitude and extreme climate, reds made from Bastardo, Marufo, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira (Tinta Amarela), whites from Côdega do Larinho, Fernão Pires, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato, Síria (Côdega) and Viosinho.

Porto and Douro

Long famous as the source of port wine, the Douro is now also renowned for its fine, rich unfortified wines, both red and white.

This is one of the wildest, most mountainous and rugged wine regions of Portugal, cut through in deep twists and turns by the River Douro. Defying gravity on the steep slopes along the banks of the river and its tributaries, the vines are planted in poor, schistous soils.

Man has engraved his own contours here – in the centre of the region, the historic narrow, stone-walled vine terraces have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while elsewhere, modern terraces are wider, buttressed by steep banks of earth.

The wine region follows the course of the river down from the Spanish border to a point near the town of Mesão Frio, about 90km up-river from the city of Porto (Oporto). Here the Serra do Marão rises up, protecting the region from the influence of the Atlantic Ocean.

Rain falls mainly on the western side of the Marão range, and to a certain extent in the western end of the Douro wine region, but dwindle further up-river, and by the Spanish border conditions are almost desert-like.

The Douro region is divided into three sub-regions: from west to east the Baixo Corgo, Cima Corgo and Douro Superior. The fertile, cooler, rainier Baixo Corgo, closest to the Serra do Marão, is the sub region with the most vineyards.

The Cima Corgo, including the towns of Pinhão, São João da Pesqueira and Tua, is the heartland of fine port production, also the source of many of today’s fine unfortified wines. The Douro Superior, very cold in winter, infernally hot in summer, is the biggest of the sub-regions (by no means all planted but much planting is underway).

Távora-Varosa

This is a small, remote, mountainous region in the north of the VR Beiras, bordering on the Douro to the north, and the Dão region to the south.

The climate is continental, with extremes of temperature, and vines grow at 500 to 800 metres above sea level on granite or schist soils.

 At this altitude, the grapes retain good acidity and fruit, and are perfect for production sparkling wines – indeed this was the first region in Portugal to be demarcated for sparkling wines, in 1989.

Malvasia Fina accounts for about half of older vineyards, along with Bical, Cerceal, Fernão Pires and Gouveio, while major reds are Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional.

For nearly a century, Távora-Varosa has also had significant plantings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (two of the major grapes of the Champagne region of France) and more is being planted.

With an admiring eye on the success of the Douro producers to the north, Távora-Varosa producers have also been planting more of the top Portuguese red grapes, such as Touriga Franca, which ripen less well in these conditions, however.

Bairrada

In the western part of the Beiras, between the mountainous Dão region and the surf-washed Atlantic beaches, Bairrada has a mild, maritime climate with abundant rainfall.

Although much of the Bairrada region is hilly, the majority of the vineyards are on flatter land. Vineyards are often divided into a multitude of small plots. There are two main types of soil: clay-limestone and sandy, each influencing style of wine.

This is a very important area for sparkling wines. Base wines for sparkling wines need the kind of high acidity that the cool Bairrada climate delivers. Sparkling Bairrada wines may have the fragrance of the Maria Gomes grapes (also known as Fernão Pires), or they may be more steely, based perhaps on Arinto, Bical and Cercial, sometimes with some Chardonnay. There are also ‘blancs de noirs’ based on quickly-pressed Baga.

Baga is the traditional local red grape. It makes tannic wines that can have high acidity if under-ripe, but if ripened and handled well the Baga can give rich, dense fruity reds that age into elegant wines of great complexity. 

Since 2003, a multiplicity of other grapes has been permitted in DOC Bairrada wines – national grapes such as Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro as well as the international likes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Merlot.

Red Bairrada these days comes in a bewildering array of styles. Predominant amongst white grapes is the fragrant Maria Gomes, while Arinto, Bical, Cercial e Rabo de Ovelha can be made into steely, long-lived whites.

Dão

Surrounded on all sides by mountains, the Dão region is protected both from the direct influence of the continental climate, and from the chill and rains from the ocean.

This is high country, rising from 200 metres above sea level at its lowest spots to 1,000 metres in the Serra da Estrela, the high mountain range to the south and east of the region. High altitude makes for cool nights, slower ripening, good acidity and aroma, and the potential for great elegance in the wines, both red and white.

Dão wines can usually age well. Vineyards, often very small patches of vines, are scattered at various altitudes amidst pine forests. Soils are very poor and granitic, with some schist to the south-west. For red wines, Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro perform very well here, with the help of Tinta Roriz (also Known as Aragonez, or, in Spain, Tempranillo), along with the traditional Jaen, Baga, Bastardo and Tinta Pinheira.

Beira Interior

These high, granite uplands over by the Spanish border include some of Portugal's highest and most impressive mountains.

The climate is seriously continental, hot and dry in summer, but with very cold, long winters.  In the summer and autumn heat, alcohol levels can shoot up before tannins are fully ripened, but with care and skill, good, balanced wines can be made.

Ripening is easier in the southern sub-region, Cova da Beira, whose exclusive local white grape, Fonte Cal, can make rich, honeyed wines with steely acidity. Other white varieties include Arinto, Malvasia Fina, Rabo de Ovelha and Síria.

The main red varieties are Bastardo, Marufo, Rufete, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. Many vines are old – a plus for quality, meaning small yields and potentially greater concentration in the grapes. 

Lisboa

West and north of the city of Lisbon, the Lisboa wine region was until recently known as Estremadura. A lot of wine is made here, much of it in co-operatives, in a very wide variety of styles and qualities. This region where the "vinho regional" Lisboa is predominant also has nine DOC’s.

Lisboa is a long, thin region running up beside the Atlantic. Wind is inevitably a strong feature beside the coast – no wonder that these undulating hills bristle with windmills, and no wonder that coastal vines are wind-stressed and hard pressed to ripen their grapes. Just a little way inland, however, a backbone of hill and mountain ranges offers some protection to many eastern parts of the Lisboa region. 

A number of the top wine estates of Lisboa are in or around the DOC region of Alenquer, tucked in to the east of the Serra de Montejunto, and therefore a little warmer, a little less windy and wet. Grapes can ripen well, and red wines especially can be top class.

Just south again, between Arruda and the city of Lisbon, is the small but high-quality white wine region of Bucelas, with sheltering hills to the west and the wide, nearly land-locked estuary of the Tagus to the east. DOC Bucelas is a fresh, crisp, dry, mineral white, made with a minimum of 75 per cent Arinto, sometimes with Rabo de Ovelha and Sercial. There is also sparkling Bucelas.

The largest DOC region within the VR Lisboa area, up in the north, on the western slopes and hills of the Candeiros and Aire mountains. This is scenic, limestone country, clothed with orchards and olive groves as well as vines. It is possible to make good, rich reds and modern whites, but some traditionally-made wines here are low in alcohol, high in acidity, known as DOC Encostas de Aire.

Tejo

DOC Do Tejo occupies almost the same large area as VR Tejo, on either side of the River Tagus (Tejo in Portuguese) as it flows gently along in a south-westerly direction towards its estuary at Lisbon. Until recently the DOC was called Ribatejo and the "vinho regional Ribatejano".

Climatic and geological conditions vary greatly throughout the region. A lot of the vines grow, along with huge quantities of vegetables, on the wide, alluvial plain of the Tagus, in soil known as leziria, very fertile and frankly over-productive as far as quality wine is concerned – unless growers commit great attention and time to reducing their crops and pruning back the exuberant vegetation. Many growers deliver to large co-operatives.

Some quality-conscious producers have focused their attention on the hotter, drier, sandy land to the southern side of the river, to the east of Muge, Almeirim and Salvaterra de Magos, bordering on the Alentejo. Soils here are known as charneca.

On the other side of the Tagus but further north, heading up towards the border with Lisboa region and the foothills of mountains of the Encostas de Aire, the soils are clay-based, and known as bairro. In the west of the Tejo region, around Rio Maior, sea air passes through a gap in mountains, making the climate wetter, windier and cooler.

The DOC regulations allow a fairly wide range of grape varieties, for whites the local Fernão Pires, Alicante Branco, Arinto, Tália, Trincadeira das Pratas and Vital, but also Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and alongside the traditional red Castelão and Trincadeira it is possible to use Aragonez, Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Península de Setúbal

The Setúbal Peninsula lies across the estuary of the River Tagus directly south of Lisbon, and linked to Lisbon by two bridges.

The wine region Península de Setúbal also includes a large coastal chunk of the administrative region (as opposed to the wine region) of Alentejo.

Much of the area is flat and sandy, with the exception of the Serra da Arrábida, a short chain of mountains running along the south coast of the peninsula, where the soils are limestone or clay-limestone. It is on these Serra da Arrábida slopes that the grapes are grown for the famous sweet Moscatel de Setúbal wines.

The climate is Mediterranean, with hot, dry summers and mild but rainy winters. Vineyards in the Serra da Arrábida are cooler, owing to the higher altitude and the proximity of the sea.

The Vinho Regional was recently renamed Península de Setúbal (it was formerly called ‘Terras do Sado’ after the River Sado that flows through the southern part of the region). There are two DOCs, Setúbal and Palmela. Setúbal is sweet and fortified, made primarily from the Muscat of Alexandria grape. It can be labelled Moscatel de Setúbal when Muscat makes up more than 85 per cent of the blend.

It’s a very sweet, fragrant wine, with candied orange flavours, floral and raisiny when young, developing nutty, toffeed aromas with maturity. Moscatel Roxo (a pink grape) makes wines that are even more scented. DOC Palmela is mainly red, and based on the late-ripening Castelão grape, which is more at home in the hot, sandy soils of Palmela than anywhere else in Portugal, ripening well to make wines of complexity and depth, elegance an balance, with good cherry fruit.

Alentejo

The Alentejo region covers about a third of Portugal, and winemakers in the remaining two-thirds can often be heard to complain about the popularity of Alentejo wines.

The reds, easy drinkers, rich and fruity, are the darlings of Lisbon cafés and restaurants, also to be found on wine lists the length of the country. There are quaffing wines, but also fine wines, especially in the red department. Whites are more difficult in this hot climate, but some very good ones are made, given the right place, and/or appropriate skill in vineyards and cellar.

It’s a short drive up from the cool of the Algarve, over the hills and into the hot southern part of the Alentejo (or seriously cold, should it be winter). Most of the Alentejo consists of undulating plains and gentle hills, with serious mountains only in the north east, where, near the town of Portalegre, the São Mamede mountain range rises up by the border with Spain, and the air becomes cooler and the countryside greener. Soils vary greatly: schist, pink marble, granite, limestone, often laid upon a sub-layer of water-retaining clay.

DOP Alentejo has eight sub-regions that together cover about a fifth of the Vinho Regional Alentejano region, but these are rarely seen a label. It makes sense to take advantage of the name Alentejo (or Vinho Regional Alentejano). Seven of the sub-regions are clustered fairly centrally. Portalegre lies well to the north east on the granite foothills of the São Mamede mountains, where higher rainfall and cooler temperatures especially at night, along with many old vines, gives complexity and freshness.

Algarve

The ‘border’ with the Alentejo region to the north is a mere 20 or 30 miles from the Algarve coast, yet the Algarve suffers none of the Alentejo’s extremes of temperature. Why? A beautiful chain of mountains running all the way between the Spanish border and the Atlantic coast separates the two regions and blocks the hot, dry winds from the north, leaving the Algarve under the moderating influence of the sea – the Mediterranean to the south, the Atlantic Ocean to the west.

East of Faro out towards Spain the climate is warmly Mediterranean, whilst west of Faro the Atlantic makes itself felt in a more temperate climate, fresher and more humid.

The soils in the Algarve are very varied: sandy, clay, limestone, sandstone, sometimes very shallow over rock, with some rare areas of schist on the mountainous slopes in the north.

Anyone who has holidayed in the Algarve will recognize the major towns that lend their names to the region’s four wine DOCs: Lagos, Portimão, Lagoa and Tavira.

For these traditional wines, the main white grapes are Arinto, Malvasia Fina, Manteúdo and Síria, and for the reds Castelão and Negra Mole. However, the new wine estates are making mainly Vinho Regional Algarve from national and international grapes: Touriga Nacional and Syrah, Aragonez and Cabernet Sauvignon, Trincadeira, Alvarinho, Chardonnay, Viognier... New estates and wineries are springing up in the Algarve – this is a region to watch.

Azores

The Azores are an archipelago of nine islands about a third of the way out into the Atlantic on a line between Lisbon and New Jersey.

The climate is mild and moist all year, and swiftly changeable: rain, wind, mist, or a teasing sun behind a veil of thin cloud. Lichens, ferns and mosses thrive, and there’s plenty of bright green grass to nurture the dairy cows.

The backdrop is spectacular: active volcanos, crater lakes, waterfalls, beaches composed of swirls of lava, Portugal’s highest mountain (the volcanic peak of the the island of Pico), and hot plains where you can literally cook your dinner. Vines are planted into rock or poor volcanic soils.

The occasional vineyard is trained along modern wires, but most vines still grow within traditional currais, small enclosures of dry stone walls, sometimes no more than two or three metres square. Apart from disposing of volcano-scattered stones, these walls give protection from ocean winds, and radiate heat at night.

The wines are made from Verdelho, Arinto and Terrantez. IPR Graciosa is for unfortified white wine made from the same three grapes plus Fernão Pires and Malvasia Fina. More Vinho Regional Açores is made today than IPR. Inevitably in this cool climate it is mostly white, but there is some good, light red, including some Merlot.

Madeira

Madeira's fortified wines keep practically for ever - they have been known to survive for more than two centuries.

Out in the Atlantic, on the same latitude as Casablanca, the island enjoys mild temperatures throughout the year, but the climate is also strongly influenced by the ocean. It is extremely mountainous, with deep valleys and steep slopes where the vines grow on little terraces in fertile, acid, volcanic soils that are very rich in organic matter.

Vines are mostly trained on traditional pergolas, the bunches hanging below, shaded from the sun by exuberant foliage. Yields are high. The resulting grapes have high acidity – a distinguishing feature that they pass on to all Madeira wines.

A small clutch of historic Madeira grapes are known as the ‘noble’ varieties: Sercial, Verdelho, Boal, Malvasia (sometimes called Malmsey) and the rarer Terrantez. All are white, and the first four are traditionally vinified to give different degrees of sweetness in the finished wine: respectively dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet and sweet.

Terrantez makes fine, dry wines with very marked acidity.  However, 80 per cent of the island’s vineyards are planted with another variety, Tinta Negra, which is made into fortified wines of all four traditional sweetnesses. Some table wines are also made on the islands.

Source: Wines of Portugal - http://www.winesofportugal.info

Glossary

Source: http://www.winespectator.com/glossary/ e http://www.infovini.com/

Wine & Knowledge