Portuguese Wine: Europe’s Undiscovered Treasure
Portuguese wine has historically been overshadowed by the wines of neighboring Spain, but that’s changing. From the fantastic dry wines that have given Douro Valley wine an international reputation to Vinho Verde wine (also called “Portuguese green wine”), that’s such a perfectly refreshing treat on a hot summer day, to sweet, complex Port wine, Portugal is home to a wine culture as diverse and exciting as any in Europe.
What is Portuguese wine?
It’s any wine that’s grown and produced within the borders of Portugal, which is located in the far west of the Iberian Peninsula, right next door to Spain. Fortified wine like Port is how most people know wine from Portugal, but the country’s wine industry has so much more to offer. And it often represents some of the best value in the world of wine these days.
What kind of wine is Portugal most famous for?
The most famous wine produced in Portugal is Port wine, a fortified and almost always sweet wine that is grown in the Douro Valley. It is aged in the great Port houses, or “lodges,” in the coastal cities of Porto and Vila Nova da Gaia, which are right across the Douro River from each other. But dry white Port exists and is finding a growing audience. It’s delicious with tonic as an alternative to a gin and tonic cocktail.
What popular wine styles does Portugal make?
Portuguese red wine, Portuguese white wine, Portuguese rosé wine, and Portuguese Port wine are all produced there. There are also many different styles of red blend Portugal is becoming well-known for, often using local grape varieties like Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cão, Tinra Roriz, and more. Douro wine, or wine produced in the Douro Valley, is becoming an important calling card for the country’s wine industry. From white to red and dry to sweet, Portugal’s wine producers can seemingly do it all. So when people ask does Portugal make wine, the answer is a hearty sim! (That’s ‘yes’ in Portuguese.)
What is Portuguese sparkling wine called?
There are some excellent sparkling wines produced in Portugal, and while there are greatly varying styles from one region to another, you can tell if the wines are fizzy by looking for the word “Espumante” on the label.
What kind of wine is Alvarinho?
Alvarinho is a white wine produced from the grape of the same name. Across the border in Spain, the grape and wine made from it are called “Albariño.” The best of them have notes of stone fruit (peaches, apricots), subtle hints of flowers and occasionally honey, and often a sense of salinity on the finish.
Where is wine country in Portugal?
Seemingly everywhere! Wine has been produced in Portugal for thousands of years, and excellent bottles can be found throughout the country. Up north, Vinho Verde and the Douro Valley are the standard bearers. Heading more towards the central part of the country, Dão, Bairrada, and Tejo are important regions. Southeast of Tejo is Alentejo, which is increasingly the source of delicious and often shockingly affordable wines. Way down in the south of the country is the Algarve, which is both home to great wine producers and a popular vacation destination, especially among European and British tourists. Pico Island in the Azores also produces notable bottles, and the island of Madeira is home to a totally unique style of wine that, in some cases, can age for well over a century or more.
How are Portuguese wines made?
It depends on the style of wine. In general, however, dry wines are made the same way as they are everywhere in the world. Port wine is produced by stopping the fermentation partway through by running the still-sweet wine off into vessels partially filled with neutral grape spirit, which kills the yeast (thus leaving plenty of natural sugar in the wine) and pumps up the alcohol to between 18% and 22% by volume. This “fortified wine” is then aged in a manner unique to the style that the producer is aiming for, from Tawny and Ruby Port to the incredibly age-worthy Vintage Ports that often last more than half a century or more in the bottle.
What are popular brands of Portuguese wine?
Taylor Fladgate, Quinta das Carvalhas, and Graham’s are popular Port producers, Gazela makes excellent Vinho Verde, and Quinta do Vale Meão produces standout dry wines. Niepoort is another great name to know. Your best bet is to ask your favorite salesperson or sommelier for their favorites. With Portugal, it’s almost impossible to go wrong.
Browse our full selection of Portuguese wine online or check out our selection of highly-rated Portuguese wine for a great new wine to try this week!
Want to learn more about Portuguese wine?
Less bubbly means less filling, too, so Moscato d’Asti is a smart choice for your next feast.
Visit our Guide to Portuguese wine to learn more about wine from Portugal.