Wines of Portugal

Red or white, dry or smooth, light or full-bodied, strong or delicate, aromatic or fruity, Portuguese wines are without doubt one of the most precious and appreciated treasures. It is possible to follow the wines of Portugal routes and visit the regions where each type of wine has been produced since time immemorial and get to know the local heritage and its culture and traditions.

From the Minho region, lush green and fresh, where the vinho verde vines grow on trellises, to the terraces of the Douro, the oldest denominated wine area in the world, and birthplace of the famous Port. Then travel to the lands of Dão and Bairrada. The wine routes run through cities and towns full of history and offer the best and truest parts of the Portuguese countryside.

More to the south, near Lisbon, we have the wines of Bucelas and Colares, precious and unique nectars. And along the Tagus river, planted in fertile fields flooded by the river, are the wines of the Ribatejo. The journey then heads south, where the Alentejo wine route extends through the sun drenched plains. We finally reach the islands of Madeira and the Azores. In the former, the king is of course the famous Madeira wine and in the Azores, make sure you try Verdelho Wine, grown on basalt rocks on the island of Pico.

Vinho Verde
Wines from the Douro
Wines from Dão
Wines from Bairrada
Wines from Ribatejo and West
Wines from Colares, Bucelas e Carcavelos
Wines from Tagus-Sado Peninsula
Wines from Alentejo
Wines from Algarve
Madeira Wine
Wine from the Azores

To know more:
Info Wine 

Vinho Verde

Vinho Verde

Vinho verde, light and somewhat daring, is unique in the world, and is a delightful excuse to get to know the Minho region. Ideal to accompany fish and seafood or just as a refreshing pause on a hot day, vinho verde is still a well-guarded secret and little known internationally.

Planted on the Atlantic coast of the Minho region, in a steep sloping area, the vines climb along trellises and border fields laced with characteristic granaries. Moderately alcoholic and excellent for the digestion due to its freshness and special qualities, the wine is very much appreciated, especially in the hot season. Fermentation conveys an unmistakeable flavour and personality. The reds are full-bodied, with an intense colour - a rosy froth or vivid red, with the whites being lemon or straw coloured.

The path through the Vinho Verde Route can start in Caminha and Vila Nova de Cerveira, or the equally picturesque Valença, on the edge of the Minho region. More to the north, Monção and Melgaço are the centre of the most appreciated Portuguese green wine: Alvarinho. Nearby is the Peneda-Gerês Natural Park, with villages in the hills full of history and tradition, such as Castro Laboreiro and Soajo.

Arcos de Valdevez, Ponte da Barca and Ponte de Lima owe their names to the rivers which bring grace and freshness, as does Viana do Castelo, in the Lima river mouth. You can also visit Barcelos, near Cávado, and Braga, whose heritage evokes the ancestral roots of the region. Another route leads to Guimarães, cradle of our nation and a World Heritage site, along with Amarante, the beautiful city which joins its river to its heritage.

Do not leave without a visit to the regions emblematic estates, quintas, as famous for the houses of their landlords as the qualities of their wines. Not to mention a visit to Feiras Novas, the famous feast days at Ponte de Lima, which each year celebrates the end of the harvests in September and where, in between the feasting and the country festivals, the new wine is tasted.

To know more:
Knowing the Vinho Verde

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Wines from the Douro

Douro river

The Douro region also produces white and red wines which for centuries have lived in the shadow of the powerful Port Wine. However, these wines have increased their quality and renown in the last fifteen years to justify their denomination of origin status.  The area extends through the valley of the river Douro and its tributary streams, including the districts of Vila Real, Bragança, Viseu and Guarda, and the Douro denominated region of the same as that designated for the production of Port, divided into three sub-regions -Baixo Corgo, Cima Corgo and Douro Superior - with each of them producing wines with their own specific features.

The whites include fresh wines, with fruity and flowery aromas, with a great aromatic intensity, which should be drunk when young. There are also whites which have fermented or aged in wood, which are wines with complex aromas of tropical fruits and almondy and creamy aspects, which are full-bodied and which can be aged.

As regards the reds, of note are the young wines, with cherry and raspberry flavours, rounded and ready to be drunk from the moment they are bottled. The Douro Region also has a great tradition of red wines which, when young, have an intense purple colour, with aromas of black fruit, chocolate, violet and hints of wood, if this was part of the ageing process. These are full-bodied brawny wines when young, and become complex and delicate in their prime.

To know more:
Port and Douro Wines Institute  
Douro Net

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Porto Wine

Porto wine

The wine-growing valley of the Douro, classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, is also the oldest protected wine region in the world. In 1756 the Marquês de Pombal decided to protect the production and export of a rare and special wine, grown on slopes which had been shaped into natural terraces curving down to the river Douro. Port wine is today one of the most well known and liked wines in the world and an excellent calling card for those who wish to get to know Portugal. And as a starting off point, surely there is nothing better than a tour through the Douro, along the Port Wine Route.

This journey can start in Oporto or in Gaia, where it is possible to visit the wine cellars and try a glass of Port, then take a cruise upriver. It is also possible to do this journey by car or by train, following the course of the river, passing through magnificent countryside next to the estates (quintas). In Régua, you can try the port in the warehouses along the Docks. And in Vila Real and Lamego, it is worth doing some local sightseeing. On the road to Pinhão, a magnificent sight awaits you in S. Leonardo de Galafura.

On the mountainside, the river runs between the steep slopes and piles of stones. This is the area of the solares, of the Sanctuary of S. Salvador do Mundo, with a breathtaking view of the almond trees in flower. A sight also not to be missed are the grape gatherings in the Douro. They start in September and carry on the whole month in a traditional routine which attracts ever more curious visitors.
Port wine is a sweet and generous wine and there are a number of distinct types and categories which are sold. A Vintage label means a Port wine belonging to a single harvest of declared quality, which, when tasted, at two years of age, is full-bodied and full of tannins.<0}During the ageing in the bottle, the colour remains strong, and there is a very distinct aroma and a complex flavour of great persistency. It is very fruity with a complex bouquet, which sometimes comes across as being resinous and ethereal.

Tawny Port is obtained from a blend of wood aged port in small barrels or vats of various ages. A compromise is obtained between the fresh and fruity character of the young wines and the smoothness and toastiness of a more marked ageing.
Port Wine with an indication of age is a Tawny obtained by blending wood aged port of different ages, to produce a balanced ageing corresponding to the average of the ages indicated (10, 20, 30 and more than 40 years)  During ageing, the young aromas, fruity and fresh, change through an oxidisation process to produce a «bouquet» which gives off a nutty, hazelnut, almond, «vinegarlike», toastlike aroma of wood and spices.

Another type of Port Wine shows the date of the vintage year (colheita). This is a wine from a single harvest, wood aged for at least 7 years, in conditions of extended oxidisation which gives it a clear gustatory stability. An ideal ageing process will increase the smoothness, harmony and viscosity, along with an increase in the complexity of the «bouquet» and the aromatic persistence shown by the colouring mellowing to a more golden brown, and showing the same greenish tendencies of very old wines.

Late Bottled Vintage or LBV is a Port Wine from a single vintage year of good quality. It is produced from selected wines which are red and full-bodied. These wines have organoleptic qualities which endow them with a high level of fineness and distinction, being intensely fruity, full-bodied and smooth with the aroma being decidedly fruity.

White Port wine is normally either sweet or very sweet, and has a golden-white colour. The aroma and flavour normally indicate a certain degree of ageing. There are also wines which have a less intense maceration, which are generally dry and extra-dry, with a pallid white colour and a complex flowery aroma, which has been deprived of intensive oxidation so as to keep it as fresh as possible. Then there is the light dry white, which is different from the others as it is less alcoholic.

To finish, we should mention Port Ruby wine. This is a young wine, which is red, full-bodied and fruity, and obtained from a mixture of different harvests and matured in large oak vats or tanks, so as to minimise the loss of colour and aroma.

To know more:
Port and Douro Wines Institute  
Port Wine Route

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Wines from Dão

Glass of wine

Dão has been famous for its wines since the 12th Century, and there are records to this effect testifying to the excellent of the wines produced there. The Dão Wine Route begins in the area of Viseu, land of granite and mountains. It then goes to the river Mondego, where the countryside is greener, and sowed with vines, solares (manor houses), quintas (estates) mixed in with the forests in the Serra do Caramulo.

Between the Vouga and the Paiva there are thermal springs such as those of S. Pedro do Sul, Roman temples and villages with shale roofs.

Dão wines have an alcohol level of between 11 to 13%, and a pure velvety flavour. The reds are ruby in colour and can be drunk with game, spicy meat and with cheese. The white wines are suave, refined and aromatic and are normally served with game, grilled meats or the strong cheeses of the region.

To know more:
Comissão Vitivinícola Regional do Dão  

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Wines from Bairrada

Estação Vitivinícola da Bairrada

In Bairrada, another place with a reputation for wine, the route visits places as charming as the thermal springs of Luso and Curia, with their gardens and hotels and Buçaco, one of the most beautiful and peaceful places in Portugal. Near the coast, the lagoons and rivers give a certain serenity to the atmosphere. Near the sea, which has left its mark on the wines of Bairrada, you can find dunes and expansive beaches, where the houses of Costa Nova, painted in colourful stripes, are an attraction of their own.

The production of wines in Bairrada was started by the Romans and continued at the hands of the monks of the monasteries of Lorvão and of Vacariça, attracted by the excellent natural conditions offered by the region, the soil of which is made up of «bairros» ? black clay? which is from where the name of the region derives.  The quality and reputation of the wines from Bairrada steadily grew throughout History to the point where, at the end of the 18th Century, the Marquês de Pombal ordered the elimination of most of the vineyards in Bairrada, as he feared that these wines could provide competition to those from the Douro or that they would be mixed in with the true Port wines.

In recent decades wine from Bairrada has undergone a rebirth in terms of its prestige and quality and today it is one of the key products of that region. The red wines are characterised by their intense colour, their tannin quality and by a fruity and marked aroma. The reds go through an ageing process which is never shorter than 18 months and the main varieties are Baga, Bastardo, Camarate and Jaen. 

 The Arinto and Bical varieties are preferred for producing whites, which are characterised by their golden tone, dry bitterness and intense flowery aromas.

As for the sparkling wines, the most famous of Portugal, they must remain in the cellar for nine months before reaching the market. Produced by the classical method or fermented in the bottle, they are divided into the Bruto, Seco or Meio-Seco categories according to how sweet they are, and most belong to the Bruto category, which is characterised by its flowery aromas and made with white and red grapes. The younger sparkling wines have flowery or fruity aromas, while the older ones give off aromas coming from the greater or lesser contact with the lees from the second fermentation stage.

The sparking wine is the ideal drink to accompany the delicious «Leitão à Bairrada» (suckling pig), a characteristic dish from the region and one of the most delicious in Portugal

To know more:
Regiao da Bairrada 

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Wines from Ribatejo and West


The quality of wines from the Ribatejo is due to the fertile marshland which from time to time is flooded by the waters of the Tagus river. There, where bulls and horses graze, a special wine is produced which, over the years, has obtained ever more fame and prestige. 

In Santarém, Cartaxo, Almeirim and Alpiarça, the wine is one of the local riches, along with the Gothic monuments which remind us of the Golden Age of the History of Portugal and the Tagus river, the soul of a land of horsemen and bullfights. The wine has existed in this region for several centuries and its fame reaches back to before the founding of the country. D. Afonso Henriques mention the wines in the charter granted to Santarém in 1170 and later, during the 14th and 15th Centuries, a number of Portuguese monarchs, namely D. Pedro I, D. Fernando, D. Afonso V e D. João II had the concern to protect the wines of this region by prohibiting those from outside entering, or passing other protectionist measures.

The particular characteristics of the soils of the Ribatejo, the type of grape varieties used in the region and the temperate sub-Mediterranean climate all play their part to produce wines which very much have their own particular identity. The Ribatejo wines, whites and reds, are smooth, velvety and fruity and are increasingly prominent in the Portuguese wine catalogue.

However, wine is also produced nearer the coast, to the West. Here is where we find full-bodied red wines, lively, aromatic and with a precious alcohol level when new and intense and balanced, with a rare «bouquet» when older. The whites, in turn, are deliciously fruity. Try them while also trying other pearls of the region, such as the fishing village of Peniche, Cabo Carvoeiro, the Berlengas islands, or the medieval tourist town of Óbidos, in a journey which forms part of the Western Wine Route, which runs from the Ribatejo until the beaches of Santa Cruz or Baleal.

To know more:
West Route

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Wines from Colares, Bucelas e Carcavelos

Adega of Colares

Near to Lisbon there are three regions with a great tradition in producing wine of a fine quality. These are wines from Bucelas, Colares and Carcavelos. The first, the wines from which are located to the north of Lisbon, an area still mainly rural, produces one of the best white wines in Portugal.

Bucelas Wine became internationally well known thanks to the French Invasions. General Wellington so appreciated it that he took it as a present to the then Prince Regent, later King George III of England. After the Peninsular War, this wine became a habit at the English court. Bucelas wine, threatened with extinction a short time ago, is nowadays a jewel of Portuguese enology. Very acidic when young, and dry when old, it should be served with lightly seasoned fish.
The reds of Colares, grown on one of the most beautiful slopes of the green Serra de Sintra - classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site - used to be considered the best in the country and are nowadays protected at all cost. The unique characteristics of Colares is due to the grape varieties, soil and temperate and humid climate in summer, and, in addition, the fact that 80% of the vine is located on a sandy ground, which extends virtually to the beaches.

The red wine has a ruby colour and, with ageing, obtains a velvety and exception bouquet. Colares wine only reaches its best quality after some years, though the minimum period is 18 months. Given the long ageing process necessary for the wine, commercialisation is limited, and the region of Colares is a kind of sanctuary for those in the know.

Carcavelos wine is one of the Portuguese wines with the greatest fame and the fact that its production is very limited has made it a true rarity. The Marquês de Pombal, who produced it from his Quinta (estate) in Oeiras, appreciated it so much that he persuaded D. José I to offer it to the court of Peking in 1752.

The region has a temperate Mediterranean climate without major changes in temperature due to the proximity of the sea, and Carcavelos produces a liqueur which is delicate, with a topaz colour, and velvety with a certain almond aroma and which acquires a marked and characteristic perfume with ageing.

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Wines from the Tagus-Sado Peninsula

Palmela Vines

The Arabs, a people closely tied to agriculture, stayed for some centuries in the Tagus-Sado peninsula, and gave a great impetus to viticulture, despite their religion not permitting the consumption of alcoholic drinks. When the Kingdom of Portugal was established, the Franks came, a people with extremely old wine-growing traditions.

In 1185, when Palmela received its first charter, given by D. Afonso Henriques, first King of Portugal, it mentioned the vines and wine of the region, which confirms its wine-growing tradition. It is not known when the growing of vines started in Arrábida, but it is known that the Phoenicians and Greeks brought some varieties of grapes from the near East which were planted here, as the climate along with the land on the slopes of Arrábida, were considered amenable to the cultivation of wine.

The Peninsula of Setúbal is indeed a pioneering region in producing wine growing products of a recognised quality, as is the case with the Moscatel from Setúbal, a generous wine whose area of cultivation has been delimited since 1907 although it had been produced for a long time previously. The Winegrowing Region of the Peninsula of Setúbal is divided into three distinct categories: Palmela - D.O.C., Setúbal - D.O.C. and Terras do Sado - Vinho Regional. Mainly red grape varieties are present in the region, with around 80% of the varieties of wine, in particular in the council of Palmela.

The main grape variety is the Castelão. However, besides other national grape varieties, we have also seen the introduction of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Blanc, and Pinot noir and blanc, amongst others. The white grape varieties most representative of the Region continue to be Fernão Pires and the Moscatel from Setúbal, the latter used for the generous wine of the same name.

In order to get to know the Costa Azul Wine Route the ideal is to start by visiting Palmela and then to head for the two towns of Azeitão, where they produce some first class wines. Quinta da Bacalhoa is the first stop, not only to try its wine but also to visit one of the most beautiful Renaissance palaces in Portugal. The route then takes you to the enormous Adega de José Maria da Fonseca, where you simple have to try the magnificent wines produced there.

And make sure you try the Moscatel of Setúbal, one of the delights of the region.  The «Moscatel» grape is grown in this region. The wine produced from this grape is smooth and perfumed, like honey, on reaching five years of age, and becomes even richer and more refined after 25 years. It should be served as a digestif. Finish the tour with a walk in the Serra da Arrábida, one of the most beautiful places in Portugal.

To know more:
Rota de Vinhos da Península de Setúbal / Costa Azul

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Wines from Alentejo

The planting of vines and the production of wine in the Alentejo goes back to the Roman period, as traces dating from this period have shown, namely fragments of grapes discovered in the ruins of São Cucufate, near Vidigueira  and some Roman wine presses. Located to the south of the country, the Alentejo is a mainly flat region with some modest relief features which still influence it in a noticeable manner. The soils are varied, ranging between the granite of Portalegre, the product of crystalline limestone of Borba, the Mediterranean greys and reds of Évora, Granja/Amareleja and Moura, and the shale of Redondo, Reguengos and Vidigueira.

Caves in Alentejo
The Alentejo produces a large variety of high quality wines, with the white wines being more important than the red wines. However, any of them makes the ideal accompaniment to the delicious gastronomic specialities of the region.

The white wines of the Alentejo are fruity, lightly acidic and have intense original aromas; the reds have fresh, fruity aromas or rich, smooth and balanced aromas. Amongst others, six grape varieties separate them from other types of wine: three white varieties - Roupeiro with a fine balanced aroma and a lemon tone, Rabo de Ovelha, a variety which produces an open colour; Antão Vaz with a unique and personal aroma. The three red varieties are Periquita, with an agreeably fruity and smooth aroma; Trincadeira which denotes a freshness and a suitable alcohol level; Aragonez, a heavy red coloured variety, which gives body to its wines.

There is a controlled Designation of Origin - DOC Alentejo, with eight winegrowing sub-regions. The vines originally grew around settlements which were later classified as towns or cities. Given the average area of these vines, the wine growers decided to get together to form associations and the first Agega Cooperativa appeared in Borba in 1958. Another five adegas had been set up by 1972: Redondo, Portalegre, Vidigueira, Granja and Reguengos, which brought fame to the wines of these regions and, later on, helped to name the wine growing areas. Due to the tradition and quality of their respective wines, another two sub-regions were created: Moura and Évora.

To know more:
Wines from Alentejo 

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Wines from Algarve

Wines of Algarve

The wine growing tradition of the Algarve was linked to the Moorish presence in the region. This people both planted vines and also exported the wine which was produced, with the Christians later on taking advantage of this and expanding the economic activity surrounding this product. From the second half of the 19th Century, and with the development of viticulture in the region, its wines started to occupy a more important place at the both the national and international levels, due to their characteristics and quality. As a designated wine growing region, with a characteristically Mediterranean climate, and using traditional grape varieties to produce quality wines, with a fruity flavour with low acid content increased by the sun, the wines and spirits (aguardentes) took their place alongside the gastronomic tradition of the Algarve.

Presently the winegrowing region of the Algarve is divided into Lagos, Portimão, Lagoa, Albufeira and Tavira, where in recent years new wine labels have appeared on the market, with the most original being that of Cliff Richard.And if the red or wine wines, whether table or sweet wines, are an essential part of a good meal, do not also forget to have a medronho aguardente or some other traditional liqueur made with fruits and honey. Monchique is the aguardente region of the Algarve, which has such a special flavour. Distilled in copper stills by centuries old techniques, it is normally drunk in small sips, by men sat around a table, to show their friendship and camaraderie. Another traditional taste from the Algarve are the summer magustos of São Martinho, a time when recently collected chestnuts are eaten and água-pé wine is drunk along with the new wine.

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Madeira Wine

Madeira Wine

Appreciated the word over, Madeira Wine is one of the ex-libris of that Atlantic archipelago. Chosen to celebrate the Independence of the USA in 1776, eulogised by Shakespeare, enjoyed by kings, princes, generals and explorers, Madeira Wine is without a shadow of doubt a true treasure.

Although there are more than 30 different grape varieties, the most prestigious are: Sercial, Boal, Verdelho and Malvasia. Try them to get to know each of them and, of course, to sample their different palates.

Secial is the main dry one, ideal as an aperitif, as it is light and very perfumed with a clear colour. Verdelho, delicate, quite perfumed and with a golden colour, is the one to drink with meals. Half sweet, suave, noble, velvety and with a dark golden colour, Boal is more recommended between the roast and the dessert. Between meals or during dessert few people can resist Malvasia. This is the incarnation of a sweet wine, and full-bodied with an intense perfume and red colour.

Discover how the soil and special climatic conditions of the island have contributed to making the unequalled Madeira Wine. Wonder at the large vineyards cultivated by hand, in small places where the ground is supported by stonewalls on the slopes of the mountains. If you can, visit Madeira in September and join in the grape gathering and the Festival of Madeira Wine.

To know more:
Madeira Wine Institute 

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Wine from the Azores

Vines in Ilha do Pico

Have you ever thought of trying a wine which grew on a basalt rock? It appears strange that such conditions could manage to produce such a delicious nectar, but the truth is that the verdelho wine is so special that for many many years it went directly to the table of the Czars of Russia.

The Azorean wines have an intense and persistent flavour, and have a surprising quality. We would highlight the Liqueur Lajido, produced in the denotated region, with a history of kings and czars going back to the 16th Century and a unique flavour which was rediscovered a few years ago.

The growing of vines in the Terceira, Pico and Graciosa Islands, which form part of the Archipelago of the Azores, goes back to the time of their settlement in the 15th  Century, with the thought that it must have been the Franciscan Friars who were responsible for the introduction of vines onto these islands.

According to some authors, these religious brothers acclaimed the similarities between the edapho-climatic conditions of Sicily and some of the islands of this archipelago, and brought the most well known grape variety - the Verdelho (formerly Verdecchio) from Italy and this rapidly took hold. The wines then produced became famous. In 1917 bottles of Pico Wine were found storied in the cellars of the former Czars of Russia.


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