Portugal's Wine Regions

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007 at 12:00 am

Portugal vineyardYou might not think too much about Portuguese wine but it is rooted in ancient traditions and civilizations such as those of the Carthaginians, Phoenicians, Greeks and most especially the Romans. Portuguese wine was exported to Rome way back in the Roman Empire and today, those exports were now being traded to England after a treaty in 1703.

Portugal is known to have the oldest appellation system in the world which is the Douro Valley. It may not have the flamboyance of French wine or the unique taste of Israeli wine but it does hold its own when compared to the different wines of the rest of the world. The so-called Douro Valley is home to the Vinho Verde region in the Northwest of Portugal which is where you will be able to find the world’s finest and most unique and highest value-added wines. The regions of Alentejo and Dão are known to come up with great-tasting wines which have a fruitful and flavorful characteristic among them. It is suitable for the casual wine drinker and could be a great introduction to the different wines of this wonderful region.

Portugal is recognized to have two wine-producing regions as authorized by UNESCO as World Heritage. The first is Pico Island Wine Region or Ilha do Pico Vinhateira and the more famous Douro Valley Wine Region or Douro Vinhateiro.

All in all, the country of Portugal has a large variety of native wines. It is able to produce a mix of wines with different textures, bouquets and personalities. The Oxford Companion to Wine basically describes the country of Portugal as having a "treasure trove of indigenous grape varieties." This is one of the reasons why Portugal is well-known to the various wine experts. The quality by which they measure their standards of wine-making is excellent and the word unique is an extremely accurate manner of describing those types of grapes that are indigenous to the country.

The country of Portugal is easily in the top 10 in the list of big wine players in the world, owning 4% of the total world market way back in 2003. The country is generally considered to be a traditional wine grower as well as it has been able to allot 8% of its continental land solely to vineyards. That’s almost one-tenth of their total land mass. Only the highest mountain peaks are able to support such viticulture. Because of the excellent conditions of the region, Portugal is able to grow different varieties of what they call in their land, "castas". Castas, or grapes, as they would like to call it, grow in a lot of their regions and they are able to maintain utmost quality in their viticulture.

Portugal’s Wine Regions are as vast as the country itself. It would help the beginning connoisseur of wine to simply split the country into two separate regions for clarity’s sake. This will essentially separate the different northern regions of the Douro, Bairrada and Dao. The other half will include the central and the southern regions of the Alengtejo, Ribatejo and the Estremadura. The northern wine regions are quite known for their top-quality "terroir" wines while the southern and central regions of Portugal have their famous full-flavored red wines in very affordable prices. This is what the people call a new-world style of wines with a Portuguese twist. So, here are the different wine regions of Portugal

The Douro

This region is considered to be Portugal’s premium wine region. The steeply terraced vineyards have been used to the people’s advantage in order to produce premium wines. Table wine is being regularly made here. Even though the quality of the wines is quite high, there are those wines which hold true to their Douro beginnings. The more prominent and significant names here are those of Niepoort’s Redome, Charme and Batuta.

Bairrada

This region is especially famous for being dominated by just one grape which is the Baga. 80% of the wines in this area are red and are most likely from this type of grape. It is a grape variety with a thick skin and is highly acidic and tannic in nature.

Dao

The wines here have good acidity because of the vineyards being planted at an altitude. The potential of this region is to produce elegant, expressive, red wines. This region shares good white wines from Malvasia as well as Encruzado.

Alentejo

The Alentejo is a flat, region which has been able enjoy success over the last decade. It has produced wines in two distinctive styles. The first being, the conventional Alentejo style which is fermented in clay pots and the other is the almost new-world style of a fruity taste which is currently enjoying a great deal of commercial success. Because of this, the region has flourished.

Ribatejo

This is a region which was a provider of bulk wine. Now it is slowly become as one of the most exciting source of commercially sharp wines. The fertile soils that are situated on the riverbank of the Tagus are consistently producing drinkable, and soft type of wines.

Estremadura

The region has a lot of grape varieties planted in their area. You will also be able to find several international grape varieties here. The different grapes here are used for bulk wine. Typically, the wine that is here is characterized by their accessible fruit, their lush textures and their affordability.

So there you have it: the different wine regions of the country of Portugal. You might want to read up on the different grape varieties that were mentioned. Ultimately, it is what you really prefer that will capture your fancy as a wine lover or a beginning novice who simply just loves wine.