Over the last 20 years Portugal has seen huge development within it's wine industry and this has led to huge improvements in the wine it has to offer!
In 2003, a new viticultural strategy was implemented, to help restructrure the enormous number of tiny vineyards into quintas and estates of a sufficient size to produce sustainable quantities of quality wines.
This massive investment also equipped Portuguese wine makers with the most modern, up to date wine making equipment. After several decades of adapting, Portugal is now producing a variety of quality wines made from native grapes such as Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, Trajadura and Alvarinho (Albariño in Spanish) and international varieties such as Chardonnay and Merlot.
Portugal can be divided in to several regions, all producing different styles due to the climate, soils and altitudes.
This area encompasses the regions of Vinho Verde, Duoro (including Porto, we'll get to that later!) and Dão.
Vinho Verde is on the northwest coast of Portugal, bordered in the north by the Minho river, the soil here is mainly granite and modern wine making methods have moved away from the traditional trellis systems to spur-pruned vines with a high fruiting zone to help create airflow in the hot, weather therefore vastly improving the quality of the grapes.
Vinho Verde means 'green' wine the more common wines from this region are white or rosé wine. They are generally young, fresh and fruity, slightly lower in alcohol, very slightly sparkling and mainly made from a blend of native grapes. The slight sparkle, which comes from a short time aging in the bottle makes these wines very refreshing and great for drinking in on a hot summer's day. Check out our Thirsty Thursday video about Este Vinho Verde from earlier this year.
The Dão region, in the north east of the country is predominantly known for it's red wines. The area is very mountainous and the climate is cold and wet in the winter and hot and dry in the summer, big differences in temperature from night to day help to produce high quality grapes. Generally Dão wines are full of red fruits, soft tannins and high acidity promising for good aging potential. Even the small amount of whites coming out of the region are now complex and elegant.
Alentejo: Portugal's Hottest and Most Diverse Wine Region
Nestled in the heart of Portugal, the Alentejo Demarcated Region sprawls across a vast expanse of 280,000 hectares, claiming the title of Portugal's largest wine haven. This sun-drenched realm, nestled south of Lisbon and north of the Algarve, is a symphony of diverse climates and terroirs, giving birth to an array of exceptional wines that captivate the senses.
The Alentejo's climate is a fiery dance of heat and dryness, with rainfall as scarce as a mirage in the desert. Summers scorch the land, earning the region the distinction of being Europe's hottest spot on more than one occasion. Yet, this fiery embrace is what sculpts the region's grapes into exceptional specimens, imbued with an intensity that mirrors the land itself.
As you journey through the Alentejo, you'll discover eight distinct sub-regions, each with its own unique personality. In the north, cooler breezes temper the heat, while in the south, the sun reigns supreme, coaxing grapes to ripen to perfection. The soil, too, plays a pivotal role, transforming from granite in the north to schist in the center, culminating in a harmonious blend of limestone and clay in the south.
This intricate tapestry of climate and soil sets the stage for an extraordinary range of wine styles. In Vidigueira, nestled in the south, the Atlantic winds sweep across rolling hills, creating a microclimate ideal for nurturing grapes destined for high-quality wines.
The Alentejo's signature red blend is a harmonious trio of Aragonez, Trincadeira, and Castelao grapes. These late-ripeners thrive in the region's fiery embrace, yielding full-bodied wines bursting with vibrant red fruit flavors, enticing spices, and hints of tobacco.
In recent years, the Alentejo has embraced international grape varieties, welcoming Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouschet, and Syrah to its vineyards. These newcomers have added a new dimension to the region's wines, crafting complex and age-worthy masterpieces.
White wines in the Alentejo are equally captivating, their freshness and fruitiness derived from Arinto, Antao Vaz, and Roupeiro grapes. These grapes produce wines that dance on the palate, their aromas reminiscent of blooming orchards and citrus groves. Some white wines embark on an oak journey, emerging with added depth and complexity, a testament to the region's versatility.
The Alentejo stands as a testament to Portugal's winemaking prowess, a land where grapes bask in sun-kissed splendor, yielding an array of wines that tantalize and captivate. As the region's popularity continues to soar, the world eagerly awaits the next chapter in its wine odyssey, a story that promises to be an intoxicating blend of tradition, innovation, and pure passion.
Peninsula de Setúbal
In addition to the Alentejo region, Portugal is also home to the IGP Peninsula de Setúbal wine region. This region was previously called Vinho regional Teras do Sado. It is located south of Lisbon on the Atlantic coast and includes two main sub-areas: hillside vineyards, with predominantly limestone based soils, at altitudes varying between 100 and 500 meters and vineyards planted on the plain, which is predominantly sandy. The climate is warm and maritime with all the influences of the Atlantic, small differences in temperature throughout the year and 400 and 500 millimeters rainfall.
In addition to IGP Peninsula de Setúbal where many international and Portuguese grape varieties can be found, the Setúbal Peninsula contains Palmela DOC where premium red wines are made from Castelão grapes.
The Palmela DOC is located in the southern part of the Setubal Peninsula and is known for its red wines made from the Castelão grape. The Castelão grape is a late-ripening grape that is well-suited to the warm climate of the Setúbal Peninsula. It produces wines that are full-bodied and fruity, with flavors of red fruits, spices, and tobacco.
The IGP Peninsula de Setúbal is a more diverse region, with a wide variety of grape varieties grown. The region is known for its white wines, but also produces good red and rosé wines. Some of the most popular grape varieties in the IGP Peninsula de Setúbal include Arinto, Fernao Pires, Moscatel de Setúbal, Castelão, and Touriga Nacional.