Vinho Verde DOC
Despite being Portugal’s biggest DOC, it is a region divided by thousands of small parts. Located in the far north of Portugal, it has a cool weather of maritime influence, being the country’s region of highest rainfall. It is why this is a region where white wines prevail. The dominant grape varieties are Alvarinho, Arinto (regionally named as Pedernã), Avesso, Azal, Loureiro and Trajadura.
White wines from this region are especially clear and refreshing, showing citric aromas and flavours, crisp acidity and a low alcoholic content. The inexpensive vinho verde that is produced here, with induced carbonic gas, makes huge success in the international market but inhibits the region to reach consumers who look for higher quality wines.
An exception to this perception is the Monção and Melgaço sub-region that, being located in a valley that protects it from maritime influence, is able to produce some of the best Portuguese white wines, based only in the Alvarinho variety. Full-bodied, of riper fruit and higher alcoholic content, the sub-region is even able to present vinifications in oak barrels.
Recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage, the Douro valley region runs a long distance near the river that names it. Protected from the Atlantic influence by the mountains, it has dry weather with cold winters and hot summers. It is one of the richest regions in native grapes, with hundreds of unique varieties and a vast area of old vines.
In a region historically associated with Port Wine, producers have chosen to diversify their still wine supply (DOC). By resorting to the settled offer of typical Port Wine grape varieties and to the terroir’s coolest parcels, producers were able to create wines of extraordinary quality that reached the majority of international wine rankings. Reds are robust, of ripe black/wild fruits and are able to maintain a great freshness and great storage capacity. The best are usually the ones that use very old vines which grant them an unique complexity. Whites are also blended, with the presence of fruit and good acidity.
The most renowned red varieties are Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão, Sousão and Tinta Amarela while the best white varieties are Rabigato, Viosinho, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina and Moscatel.
The Dão region is located South of the Douro, surrounded by mountains with scattered vines, divided in several parts. It is a fresh region with areas of great altitude, such as the case of the Serra da Estrela sub-region (Portugal’s mainland highest point). The Dão has a strong classical tradition in winemaking, which harmed its image next to consumers who looked for fruitier and more direct wines. In the last years, however, a new wave of producers came to revitalize and modernize the region, making it more appealing without losing the elegant, fresh and challenging profile of the typical Dão wines. These are wines that, due to its characteristics, have a strong evolutive capacity, allowing producers to launch their best references in the market later in time when they are already ready to drink.
Another blend region, whether in red or in whites where there is practically no use of international grape varieties. Most used and known red varieties are Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Jaen and Tinta Roriz and white varieties are Encruzado, Bical, Cercial and Malvasia Fina.
Located in the Portuguese coast but practically glued to the Dão region, Bairra enjoys a fresh and humid weather due to the sea influence coming from the Atlantic and it is divided into thousands of small parcels.
In this region’s reds coexist two different philosophies: classical style wines, based mostly in the Baga variety; and the new wines that resort to a multiplicity of national origin varieties such as Alfrocheiro, Tinta Pinheira and Touriga Nacional and some international such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Baga is a hard variety that can easily produce acid and tannic wines if it doesn’t have the right conditions to mature, which means that Bairrada may not be the ideal region for those who want to start learning about Portuguese wines.
In white varieties Fernão Pires (called Maria Gomes in the region), Arinto, Bical and Cercial prevail.
Regional Lisboa (IGP)
This region, formerly named as Estremadura, owes its name to its nearness to the capital of Portugal. It is a coastal region with strong sea influence and produces wines with good value for money but lacks a strong identity. Its wines, whether whites or reds, are based in national and international variety blends or in single varieties. It is probably the country’s region where the use of international varieties is more common.
In the South of this region, very close to the city of Lisbon, there are the Bucelas, Colares and Carcavelos DCOs that, despite its size, are able to be the ones that present the most singular wines. Bucelas is the only exclusive white wine DOC, based in the Arinto variety; Colares, with its sandy soils, produces very particular wines and Carcavelos presents just one sweet fortified wine.
The main white varieties are Arinto, Fernão Pinto, Malvasia and Vital while, in reds, Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Castelão, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira, besides the contribution of international varieties such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
Regional Tejo (IGP)
Formerly known as Ribatejo, the Tejo region was named by the river that ends in the city of Lisbon. Despite being one of the oldest winemaking regions in the country, most of its vines are based in fertile agricultural soils which benefits the large scale production from one side but, on the other hand, reduces to a small percentage the wines of higher quality. It is an easy region, of cheap but good wines that demand, for an expert consumer, a good knowledge of the region’s supply.
The most used red grape varieties are Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, Castelão and Aragonez and the white are Fernão Pires and Arinto.
PALMELA DOC / Setúbal Peninsula (IGP)
Region located south of Lisbon, with the influence of a mediterranean weather with warm and dry summers and mild winters but with rainfall and high humidity. Produces wines with great value for money, easy to taste, especially when it comes to red wines. These resort essentially to the Castelão variety as well as to some international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
In white varieties dominate Arinto and Fernão Pires – and, sometimes, the international variety Chardonnay – to which are sometimes is added the Moscatel de Alexandria variety that makes these wines especially aromatic.
Alentejo DOC / Regional Alentejo (IGP)
The enormous Alentejo represents almost a third of the Portuguese territory. In its plains, located in the South, prevail the big estates and vines of great extension. The weather, mediterranean, is warm and dry with very hot summers and very cold winters. Being a hot region, it essentially produces ripe fruit wines, of great impact and easy to taste that easily conquer fans among wine enthusiasts. In reds, Alentejo has adopted the French variety Alicante Bouschet which, despite not having a major expression in its country of origin, has found here the ideal terroir, being present in the blends of the best wines and even making the most expensive and renowned in the region. It originates concentrated wines, of powerful tannins and with a good evolutive capacity.
The most used white varieties are Antão Vaz, Arinto and Roupeiro and the red are Alfrocheiro, Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Castelão and Trincadeira. There is also some use of international varieties such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot.
Although less relevant, in Portugal there also are the regions of Algarve – which is known for its Rosés -, Regional Beiras and Azores.