Styles & Designations
It is produced in abundance in the several Portuguese wine regions and in its production are used numerous red grape varieties. Despite the huge diversity of Rosé wines – from the lighter ones, with little colour to the more colored and alcoholic -, in Portugal the tradition of low-alcohol Rosés to drink in the summer still dominates, such is the case of the famous Mateus Rosé.
Light-bodied and fruity
Typical of coastal regions, these are wines that are fresh, aromatic and generally based in citrus and floral notes. These wines are usually wines of immediate consumption and easy to love.
Medium/Full-bodied with wood
The most structured white wines come from the warmer regions of the country such as the Douro valley and Alentejo’s Southern region. There are some exceptions, especially wines that age in wood (Reserva) in the Monção-Melgaço sub region and are based in the Alvarinho variety and wines from the interior region of Dão where the use of wood in the vinification of the Encruzado variety is already a classic and that origins the most serious and prestigious whites of Portugal.
Light/medium-bodied and fruity
It is not easy to find light or medium-bodied reds in Portugal despite there has been, in the last years, a movement across the country to promote wines that are lighter, less alcoholic and easier to drink. In Portugal, wines are usually medium-bodied, fruity and with good matter and of consistent quality, something expected from a country with regular harvest and without maturation issues.
Full-bodied and powerful
In Portugal it is easy to find concentrated and powerful wines. In the Douro region, for instance, the use of base varieties of Port wine in still wines is a success. These are wines of good nose impact, with ripe fruit that take advantage of the several exposure of the Douro valley to achieve blends of balanced acidity. In the South of the country, the wide an plane region of Alentejo also easily produces robust wines, of ripe fruit and of high alcoholic volume. In both region tannins, despite present, are ripe and non-drying which means that despite ageing in the bottle is advised, it is possible to enjoy them while in an early age.
Medium-bodied and Elegant
The most fresh and elegante wines come of the coastal region of Bairrada and the interior region of Dão. These are two regions of a more classic profile, with wines of less fruity impact that bet on balance and gastronomical sense. Being more dependent on the climate, these region can, in some cases, produce wines with high acidity and one should be careful with the cheaper references.
The secular Port Wine has its origin in the Douro valley and owes its name to the city from where the wine was exported to England, its original most important market. The majority of the Port wine estates have their plantations in the Douro and the cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia (the other riverside across the city of Oporto). With a wide range of sweetness and colors, Port wine is divided in three big families:
Not considered very interesting until recently (too sweet, were consumed very fresh or in cocktails), white Ports have earned a significant importance in the last years when producers started to launch wines of huge quality, some very old. The white Port wine varies according to its sweetness level (Extra Dry, Sweet and Lágrima) and ageing period. The most recent are usually served as an aperitif while the oldest should be drunk after meals. The whites of extremely good quality are rare.
Tawny wine is obtained from wines lots with an average age of three years and aged in seasoned wood casks. Through this process, the wines are forced to a slow oxidation controlled in big barrels which gives them a golden tone and transform them into a bouquet where nuts, wood and spices stand out.
Age Indication (10/20/30/40 years old)
Obtained through lots of wines of several vintages in order to group different sensory characteristics (colour, aroma and taste), it has a variable wooden ageing period and the age in which the wine is catalogued results in the average of the ages of the wines that compose the blend (two or more grape varieties).
It means “Vintage” in Portuguese. Even though Colheita is not a blend wine of several years, it ages in wooden casks like Tawnys with age indication. Since they are wines of a single vintage, the ageing period in casks depends upon the decision of the producer to launch them in the market. It is necessary to verify the bottling date to determine the maturing period.
Ruby owes its name to its colour that resembles the ruby gemstone and this is due to a aging process with little or no oxidation at all. It is a young wine, rich in aromas that remind red fruits, full-bodied and of strong taste.
L.B.V. means Late Bottled Vintage because it is bottled between the 4th and the 6th year after the harvest. This is a more recent designation and it was a style created to be consumed earlier than the Vintage. Its extra time in the barrel is able to tame tannin, making it ready for immediate consumption after its launch.
Coming from a single harvest, it is considered the king of Port wines and represents just a small fraction of its total production. It is bottled from 18 to 36 months after the harvest. It can be consumed right away even though it is usually stored in ageing cellars for a period that can last up to 40 years. The Single-Quinta goes through the same manufacturing process but comes from just one estate, not being considered good enough to be declared a Vintage.
Madeira wine is a fortified wine with almost unlimited storage potential, having been able to survive several centuries due to extremely high acidity levels and to is maturing process, subject to head and oxidation. They are designated according to the grape varieties that compose them and according to the level of sweetness presenting, usually, a caramelized taste and a never-ending finish. They are produced with the white varieties of Sercial (dry), Verdelho (semi-dry), Boal (semi-sweet) and Malvasia (sweet). The red variety (Tinta Negra) is used for all kinds of sweetness and for inferior quality wines.
The wines of Moscatel grapes are known and produced in several countries in the world and Portugal is no exception. Very sweet and aromatic, the best are able to counterbalance that with excellent acidity. In Portugal is essentially produced in the Setúbal region where it is mostly used the Moscatel de Alexandria variety. In the Douro region it is produced Moscatel wine with the Moscatel Galego Branco (Muscat Blanc à Petit Grains) variety and the best ones are aged for 10 or 20 years, being occasionally bottled as “Colheita”.
Almost all Portuguese regions produce sparkling wine resorting to the classical method. However, the best come from fresher climates or with altitude. The main producing regions are:
It is located South of the Douro and North of the Dão, in a high and cold region. Produces sparkling wines with Malvasia Fina and typical Champagne varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Fresh and Atlantic region that produces big quantities of sparkling wine, not always with great quality, through the red varieties of Baga and Touriga Nacional and white varieties of Maria Gomes, Arinto and Bical.