port wine


Port wine’s characteristics distinguish it from common wines. All varieties of Port have rich, intense, and very persistent aromas and flavour, with high alcohol content (usually between 19% and 22% vol.). They exist in a variety of sweetness and colours. In order to identify the several types of Port, some designations are used.


Vintage is an excellent quality wine made up of one single harvest. It is considered the king of Port wines, representing only a small percentage of the total production of Port.

It is bottled between the 1st July of the second year and the 31st December of the third year after harvesting. Although it can be immediately consumed, it is usually kept in ageing cellars for a period that can last up to 40 years.

It is a very dark, full bodied red wine that becomes softer after ageing in bottle.

Single-Quinta is a wine that undergoes the same production process as a vintage, but comes from a single farm (big companies considered that the year was not enough to qualify a wine as vintage).

In Portugal, IVDP (Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto – Port and Douro Wines Institute) is the entity responsible for recognising and classifying Port wines as “vintage”.
Other Denominations

Port wines have different denominations according to the type of ageing.

port wine classification

Wine whose colour resembles that of the precious stone called ruby. This happens because the ageing process has little or no oxidation (usually up to three years in wooden barrels). It is a young, full bodied wine rich in fruity aromas.

Port wine obtained from blends of, usually, 3 year-old wines aged in wine seasoned casks. This way, they don’t present the characteritsics of oak ageing. During the ageing process several rackings are performed in order to force oxidation and endow the wine with a golden colour.

This category is applicable to Tawny and Ruby wines. Tawny Reserva wines have higher qualities than Tawny and their tones vary according to the winemaking processes: they can be red, similar to rubies, or brownish, resembling the colour of oldest tawnies. Tawny Reserva is obtained from the blend of 5 to 7 year-old wines. Ruby Reserva are more aromatic, fruity and have a more complex structure than Ruby. The blends used in the production of Ruby Reserva undergo a more careful selection than the ones used in the Ruby category.

Age designation
Good quality Port wine with permission to use age designation. Age designations are: 10 year old, 20 year old, 30 year old and over 40 year old. This Port is a tawny obtained from a blend of wines from several harvests in order to join different organoleptic characteristics (colour, aroma and flavour). The ageing period in wood is variable and the age on the wine’s label corresponds to the average age of the different wines used in the blend (mixture of two or more grape varieties).

Good quality tawny Port from one single harvest. Before being bottled, the wine goes through an ageing period in wood of, at least, seven years. Although Tawny is not a blend wine, it undergoes rackings and fillings during its ageing process. While the wine ages, its fresh, fruity aromas oxidise and are transformed into a bouquet (group of aromas), from which the aromas of dry fruit, wood and spices stand out.

L.B.V. (Late Bottled Vintage)
Good quality Port wine with good ageing potential. It has a harvest date and is usually obtained from a blend of wines from that harvest. Its ageing takes place in large vats, oak tuns or stainless steel tanks in order for the oxidative evolution to be extremely slow. LBV is bottled between the 31st July of the fourth year and the 31st December of the sixth year after harvest.
In the Late Bottled Vintage category one also finds the “Envelhecido em garrafa” or Bottle Matured Port. This is a high quality Port that ages in bottle for, at least, three years and can thus create a deposit.

High quality Port wine. It is obtained from a blend of wines from different harvests and bottled after 3 to 4 years of ageing in wood. The wine’s peculiar characteristics create a deposit (crust) in the walls of the bottle.

Very sweet Port wine whose sugar content exceeds 130g per litre. When poured into a glass it resembles tears running down the glasse’s walls, hence its name (Lágrima – tears). It is usually obtained from a blend of 2 to 5 year-old wines.

Sweet Port has 90 to 130g of sugar per litre. Sweet White Port has several tones of yellow and is obtained from blend wines of different age: some wines use two to three year-old blends, while others use older, five, six and sometimes nine year-old blends (these will be included in the White Reserva category).

Wine whose sugar content is between 40 and 65g per litre. The Light Dry White Port variety has a colour similar to that of still white wines and a lower alcoholic content than the other varieties of Port wine (16.5%). This is a slightly aromatic wine that does not undergo an intense oxidative ageing. There is also the Half Dry White wine, with 60 to 90g of sugar per litre.

Grape varieties of port

white grapes
This northern grape is one of Portugal's finest and most characterful. It was one of the first Portuguese grape varieties to be bottled as a single variety. Its full-bodied, subtly fragrant white wines are easy to recognise, their complex but delicate aromas reminiscent of peach, lemon, passion fruit, lychee, orange zest, jasmin, orange blossom and lemon balm. The wines are delicious young, but they can also age well, often for ten years or more. Alvarinho grows mostly along the River Minho, right up in the north of the Vinho Verde region - the northern Vinho Verde sub-regions of Monção and Melgaço are its famous heartlands. Compared to other Vinho Verde, it makes richer wines, higher in alcohol. Alvarinho vines are vigorous, and care is needed to restrain their exuberant vegetation, yet grape yield is low, the bunches small, the grapes very pippy.

Antao Vaz
This is one of the most prized varieties of the Alentejo, until recently grown almost exclusively around Vidigueira. Well suited to the warm and sunny climate on the great plains of the Alentejo, it is reliable and productive, consistent in its ripening. The bunches are big and not too tightly packed, the grapes large, with tough skins. As a rule it produces firm, full-bodied, well-structured wines. Made as a single variety, it has lively aromas, with hints of ripe tropical fruits, tangerine peel and something mineral, along with good structure and body. If picked early, it gives wines with vibrant aroma and crisp acidity. Left to ripen longer, it can reach high levels of alcohol, making it a good candidate for barrel maturation. It is often blended with Roupeiro and Arinto, which contribute refreshing acidity.

This is a versatile grape, grown in most of Portugal's wine regions. In Vinho Verde country, it goes by the name of Pedernã. It makes vibrant wines with lively, refreshing acidity, often with a mineral quality, along with gentle flavours reminiscent of apple, lime and lemon. Arinto-based wines can keep well but are also delicious young. Because it keeps its acidity even in hot climates, Arinto is often added to other lower-acid white grapes to improve blends - especially in the hot Alentejo and Ribatejo. It makes some of its greatest wines in the small DOC region of Bucelas, just north of Lisbon, where it must account for at least 75 per cent of blends (along with Sercial and Rabo de Ovelha). Its good acidity also makes it a great ingredient for sparkling wines. Arinto's medium-sized bunches are tightly packed with small grapes.

This grape is to be found mainly in the Beiras, in the DOCs Bairrada and Dão (where, incidentally, it is sometimes called "Borrado das Moscas" or "Fly Droppings"!). Bical wines are especially soft and aromatic, fresh and well structured, typically with aromas of peach and apricot, while in riper years there may be hints of tropical fruit. They respond well to wood maturation, especially with prolonged lees contact. In Bairrada, Bical is used a lot in the production of sparkling wines, often blended with Arinto. In the vineyard it's an early variety, and although it has good, fresh acidity when picked at the right moment, if picked too late it can become over-alcoholic and a little short on acidity. Despite being highly resistant to rot, it is particularly susceptible to powdery mildew.

For the moment, this grape is restricted very much to the DOC Dão, but watch this space. It is one of Portugal's absolutley top white grape varieties. The best examples have delicate aromas of roses and violets, light citrus notes, a touch of resin and, in certain conditions, intensely mineral notes. Amongst its virtues is the ability to maintain almost perfect balace between sugar and acidity, making serious, rich, structured wines with extraordinary ageing potential. It is used both as a single variety and as a star ingredient in many Dão blends. The Encruzado vine yields well, presenting no major problems in the vineyard.

Fernao Pires
This is one of Portugal's most planted grapes. It grows more or less all over the country, but is particularly important in the regions of Tejo, Lisboa and Bairrada. It's an aromatic variety - you might detect scents and flavours of lime, lemon, roses and other flowers, tangerines, oranges... and it's best drunk young. It is also very versatile, sometimes used as a single variety, sometimes blended, sometimes used as a base wine for sparkling wine, and can also be harvested late to make sweet wines. Fernão Pires vines are frost-sensitive, and best suited to warm or hot climates. Outside Portugal, it has been planted with some success in South Africa and Australia. It prefers fertile soils, and gives high yields.

Fonte Cal
This native of the north-eastern part of the Beiras (the northern sector of DOC Beira Interior) has yet to escape the region. It is rare to see a single-variety Fonte Cal - most is blended - but the variety produces big, well-structured wines that are floral, honeyed and fruity, but often sadly low in acidity, and over-high in alcohol. In the vineyard, Fonte Cal is a late-ripening, moderately productive variety, vigorous and leafy, with medium-sized bunches of tightly-packed greenish-yellow grapes.

This Douro grape is now planted right across Portugal and has recently become particularly popular in the Alentejo. It produces fresh, lively wines with good acidity, plenty of body, and fresh, citrus aromas, along with notes of peach and aniseed, and lovely balance. It ages well in bottle. For years it was known as Verdelho in the Douro, which led to confusion, as Gouveio has nothing to do with the Verdelho of Madeira. It ripens quite early, giving relatively high yields of medium-sized, tightly packed bunches of small, yellowish-green grapes that are prone to oidium infection and vulnerable if rain should fall around harvest time.

Although now widely disseminated throughout the Vinho Verde region, it seems that the Loureiro grape originated in the valley of the River Lima, towards the north of the VR Minho/DOC Vinho Verde region. "Loureiro" means "laurel" or "bay" and the aroma of Loureiro wines is said to resemble that of laurel flowers, also orange blossom, acacia and lime blossom, overlaying appley, peachy fruit. Loureiro wines usually have refreshing, well-balanced acidity. Loureiro is much in evidence nowadays bottled as a single variety, but traditionally it was more often blended with Arinto (Pedernã) and Alvarinho, or with Trajadura. It is a very vigorous, high-yielding variety that has only recently been recognised as "noble". The bunches are elongated and relatively compact, bearing medium-sized, yellowish-greenish grapes.

Malvasia Fina
This is a grape of inland northern Portugal, especially the Douro, Dão and Beira Interior; it is also planted in the Távora-Varosa and Lisboa regions. Malvasia Fina wines are subtle, not particularly intense, reasonably fresh and moderately complex. You may detect a hint of molasses, a suggestion of beeswax and nutmeg, and the wine may appear slightly smoky even if it has not been matured in wood. Generally used for blending, it also contributes to base blends for sparkling wines in cooler areas and/or when harvested early, for instance in Távora-Varosa and Lamego. In the vineyard, Malvasia Fina is particularly sensitive to oidium and moderately prone to rot, mildew and coulure, and yields are therefore extremely variable and inconsistent.

Moscatel graudo
This Eastern Mediterranean grape was introduced to the Iberian Peninsula by the Romans. Its distinctive aroma is really easy to recognise - fresh grapes, raisins, lemons, lychees, pears and lime flowers. It has good, fresh acidity. Elsewhere in the world, this type of Muscat is most commonly known as Muscat of Alexandria. It can make light, summery wines, dry or off-dry, or, more often, sweet, fortified wines, most famous of which is Moscatel de Setúbal with its notes of orange zest, honey, spices, iodine, orange blossom and acacia.

Planted throughout the Douro Superior, this is one of the Douro's best white grapes, contributing bright, refreshing acidity to white blends. When (rarely) it is vinified as a single variety, its aroma is reminiscent of acacia and orange blossom, with vegetal notes and a strongly mineral character, full body and good acid structure. The bunches are medium-sized, the grapes small and greeny-yellow in colour.

This land-locked grape grows in a long north-south strip over by the border with Spain. It has various alternative regional names. Síria is the name used in the Beiras, but it is best known by its southern Alentejo name, Roupeiro - this is the most-planted white grape in the Alentejo. Because it has a tendency to oxidise, Síria/Roupeiro is a wine to drink young, In its youth it is exuberantly aromatic, citrus and floral, with hints of peach, melon and bay. It does better in the cool uplands of the Beiras than in the heat of the Ribatejo and Alentejo, and is particularly successful in the Pinhel region in the northern sector of the Beira Interior. The Síria gives high yields, and both bunches and grapes are small.

Originally from the north of the Vinho Verde region, the Trajadura makes wines with lower acidity and higher alcoholic strength than the other Vinho Verde grapes. This makes it a great candidate for blending in this cool, moist part of the country, where excessive acidity and low alcohol can be a problem even with vines trained in an efficient, modern way. Trajadura is a fairly aromatic variety, with gentle flavours of peach, apricot, apple and ripe pear and a pleasant touch of orange blossom. it is used in popular blends with Alvarinho, and with Loureiro and Arinto. Trajadura has a very long vegetative cycle, buds breaking early, grapes ripening late. The bunches are yellowish-green, tightly packed and medium sized. Yields are very generous.

Verdelho came to fame on Portugal's islands - Madeira and the Azores- as a base wine for fortified wines. From there it made its way to Australia, where it makes rich, aromatic dry whites. On Madeira it has traditionally been responsible for the tangy, off-dry style of (fortified) Madeira wine. The base wines have high acidity, and can be aromatic. Before the vine-munching phylloxera bug reached Madeira in the late 19th century, Verdelho vines accounted for two-thirds of Madeira's vineyards. Nowadays very little remains, growing mosly on high ground along the north coast of the island. Bunches of tiny yellowish-green grapes are small and compact.

This north-eastern grape survives for the most part scattered here and there in the old mixed white vineyards of the Douro. Traditionally, Viosinho has been an unpopular variety with growers because of its very low yields. It's only recently that winemakers have realised what a treasure it is, as a component both in port and in unfortified Douro white blends. It makes full-bodied but fresh, fragrant, well-balanced wines, performing best in hot, sunny climates where it is less prone to oidium and botrytis infection. Bunches and grapes are small and early-ripening.

Red grapes
This is a Dão grape by origin, but it has spread successfully southwards into the Alentejo, Ribatejo/Tejo and Palmela regions because of its ability to retain good acidity even in hot climates. The wines are rich in colour with firm but ripe tannins and a good balance of tannins, alcohol, acidity and attractive, berry fruit, reminiscent in particular of blackberries and ripe stawberries. The vines are vigorous, requiring more attention than many other varieties to keep the vegetation under control, and they are prone to attack by oidium and botrytis.

This is one of the rare grape varieties to be prized on both sides of the border. Tempranillo to the Spanish, the Portuguese call it by two different names depending on the region: Aragonês and Tinta Roriz (the latter name is used only in the Dão and Douro regions). In recent years it has spread rapidly throughout the Dão, Ribatejo/Tejo and Lisboa regions. It can make rich, lively red wines that combine elegance and robustness, copious berry fruit and spicy flavour. It's an early variety (that's what "Tempranillo" means in Spanish). The vines are very vigorous and productive and adapt well to different climates and soils, altough it prefers hot, dry climates on sandy or clay-limestone soils. It tends to be blended with other varieties, typically Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca, and also with Trincadeira and Alicante Bouschet in the Alentejo.

Bairrada is the famous home of the difficult Baga grape, but it is also to be found widely elsewhere in the Beiras, including Dão. Baga grapes are small and thick-skinned (which makes for high tannin levels in the juice), and the grapes ripen late, indeed inadequately in cooler, damper years, especially if planted in an inappropriate place. Baga performs best on clay soils and requires good exposition to the sun. Even then, it is highly susceptible to rot, especially in September rains. The vines produce exuberant foliage, creating a lot of work in the vineyard for quality-conscious growers. When the grapes ripen well, in dry years, Baga wines have deep colour and a rich but lean, tannic, high-acid structure, with clear flavours of berries and black plums and hints of coffee, hay, tobacco and smoke. Though often astringent when young, Baga wines (especially the best ones from Bairrada) can age remarkably well, softening and gaining elegance and a herby, cedary, dried fruit complexity.

This is one of the most commonly-planted grapes in the south of the country. It is especially popular in the regions Tejo, Lisboa, Península de Setúbal and Alentejo, and is happiest in hot climates and dry, sandy soils. It performs at its best in the Palmela region of the Setúbal Peninsula south of Lisbon, in old vineyards in the hot, sandy soils around Peceirão. Castelão grapes from carefully-managed, low-yielding old vines can be made into well-structured wines with plenty of tannin and acidity, and fruit reminiscent of redcurrants, preserved plums and berries, sometimes with a hint of well-hung game. Castelão is rarely able to shake off a rustic character. The best examples can age very well, sometimes resembling fine old Cabernet when mature.

Jaen shows at its best in the Dão region, and that's where most of it is grown. The vines are vigorous, prone to mildew and botrytis infection, and the grapes ripen early, providing low acidity and poor colour. At worst its wines are watery and acidic, at best highly perfumed, reminiscent of blackberry, blueberry and cherry. Despite a slightly rustic character, it can make early-drinking, soft, silky reds that are simple yet seductive.

There is still quite a lot of Moreto in the Alentejo, but it is losing ground, except in a few areas near the Spanish border. It was popular in the Alentejo in the past because even in the region's hot temperatures and blazing sun it managed to give high yields. On the negative side, however, Moreto's sugar/potential alcohol levels are low, it has little in the way of aroma, and the wines do not keep well. It is usually blended in with Trincadeira, Aragonez and/or Tinta Caiada.

Moscatel Galego Roxo
This grape began life as a natural genetic mutation of Moscatel Galego, of which there were small quantities in the Setúbal Peninsula. It makes fortified wines similar to those from the "Moscatel de Setúbal" grape, but with more complex aromas and flavours. In comparison to Moscatel Galego, the bunches and grapes are smaller, and in colour an exotic pink as opposed to yellowish-green. Fortified wines made from Moscatel Galego Roxo are sweeter and very aromatic with a long after-taste.

Ramisco is confined to the tiny and once famous region of Colares, in the sand dunes west of Lisbon and the palaces of Sintra. Vineyard land is shrinking, and no wonder. Colares is right next to the wonderful surfing beach of Guincho, just a short drive from Lisbon, and far more money is to be made from building villas than from growing vines. All the more so because growing vines in Colares is a difficult and exhausting business. The vines are planted ungrafted, on their own roots, deep into the sand (the phylloxera bug cannot survive in sand). Ramisco produces wines with hard tannins and high acidity, not much fun in their youth, but, if well made, capable of long ageing in bottle.

You will rarely see this grape as a single variety. It goes into blends in the Douro, Dão and the northern and central parts of the Beira Interior, over by the Spanish border, and is mostly found in old, mixed vineyards. It is a difficult grape, prone to mildew and oidium attacks, and a late ripener, sometimes failing to ripen fully before the rains set in late October. However, yields are good, and when it does manage to ripen fully, it makes full-bodied, fruity, aromatic wines than can age well in bottle.

Tinta barroca
This is one of the most commonly-planted vines in the Douro, and one of the five officially recommended varieties for port. You will rarely meet it as a single variety, but it forms part of most red Douro blends, contributing dark colour without too much tannin, thanks to its dark but thin skins, along with plummy, cherry fruit. Despite high yields, its grapes are rich in sugar and potential alcohol, and it is a reliable producer, with good resistance to pests and diseases. However, it copes badly in excessive heat and water stress, and grapes that suddenly become over-ripe can rapidly turn to raisins on the vine. It has been exported to South Africa where is is a component in port-style wines as well as making some varietal table wines

Touriga Franca
This is one of the structural pillars of red Douro blends, and also one of the five officially recommended grapes for port. It's the most widely planted grape in the Douro, currently accounting for around a fifth of total vineyard area, and it is now much planted right across the northern half of Portugal. The Touriga Franca makes richly-coloured, dense yet elegant wines with copious blackberry fruit and floral notes (roses, rock roses, wild flowers...) and firm but velvety tannins that contribute to the ageing potential of blends - it is often blended with Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. Apart from the quality of its wines, it is popular in the vineyard for its resistance to pests and diseases and its reliably good crops of healthy grapes.

Touriga Nacional
Few would dispute that the Touriga Nacional is Portugal's finest red grape variety, deserving a place right up at the top of the world league of grapes, along with the likes of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo. Though Northern in origin, it has spread right across the country - you will find it down south in the Algarve and the Alentejo, out west in the Ribatejo/Tejo and Setúbal regions, successfully competing with the local Baga grape in Bairrada, and way out mid-Atlantic in the Azores. Touriga Nacional is a thick-skinned grape, and those skins are rich in colour and tannins, giving excellent structure and ageing capicity. But it also has wonderful, intense flavours, at the same time floral and fruity - ripe blackcurrants, raspberries - with complex hints also of herbs and liquorice. Yields are never high. The Dão and Douro regions both claim to be the origin of this fine grape, and the rest of the winemaking world is beginning to wake up to its quality.

Rich in colour, with good acidity and rarely an excess of alcohol, Trincadeira (as it's known in the Alentejo) or Tinta Amarela (if you are speaking to a Douro producer) makes wines of serious quality when ripe, but it does not always achieve ripeness. Properly ripened, it has vibrant raspberry fruit tempered by herby, peppery, spicy, floral complexity, and it can age well. Under-ripe, it tastes herbaceous. It is a difficult vine to grow, producing exuberant amounts of foliage and needing constant trimming to prevent those vegetal flavours. Yields are generally high, but unreliable. It is very sensitive to rot and other vineyard diseases. For this reason it does better in hot, dry places, and is therefore particularly at home in the Alentejo and Ribatejo/Tejo areas: these are the regions where it really shines. But it is grown througout Portugal.

Famous for its biting acidity and dark, opaque colour, Vinhão is the most-planted grape of the Vinho Verde/Minho region. Unlike most red grapes, where practically all the colour comes from the skins, Vinhão also has red flesh and therefore instant red juice, which then darkens further once the blue-black skins have time to macerate. This is an especial advantage in the case of port production, where colour needs to be extracted very quickly. In the Douro Valley it goes by the name of Souzão, and it is currently being quite widely replanted. Vinhão originated in the Vinho Verde/Minho region, and only later migrated to the Douro.

wine regions

DOC Do Tejo occupies almost the same large area as VR Tejo, on either side of the River Tagus (Tejo in Portuguese) as it flows gently along in a south-westerly direction towards its estuary at Lisbon. Until recently the DOC was called Ribatejo and the "vinho regional Ribatejano".

Climatic and geological conditions vary greatly throughout the region. A lot of the vines grow, along with huge quantities of vegetables, on the wide, alluvial plain of the Tagus, in soil known as leziria, very fertile and frankly over-productive as far as quality wine is concerned – unless growers commit great attention and time to reducing their crops and pruning back the exuberant vegetation. Many growers deliver to large co-operatives.

Some quality-conscious producers have focussed their attention on the hotter, drier, sandy land to the southern side of the river, to the east of Muge, Almeirim and Salvaterra de Magos, bordering on the Alentejo. Soils here are known as charneca.

On the other side of the Tagus but further north, heading up towards the border with Lisboa region and the foothills of mountains of the Encostas de Aire, the soils are clay-based, and known as bairro. In the west of the Tejo region, around Rio Maior, sea air passes through a gap in mountains, making the climate wetter, windier and cooler.

The DOC regulations allow a fairly wide range of grape varieties, for whites the local Fernão Pires, Alicante Branco, Arinto, Tália, Trincadeira das Pratas and Vital, but also Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and alongside the traditional red Castelão and Trincadeira it is possible to use Aragonez, Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

wine makers
    Agro-Batoréu Lda.
    Wine regions: Tejo
    Companhia das Lezírias, SA
    Wine regions: Tejo
    DFJ Vinhos
    Wine regions: Alentejo, Algarve, Lisboa, Península de Setúbal, Porto and Douro, Tejo
    Enoport United Wines
    Wine regions: Alentejo, Dão and Lafões, Lisboa, Península de Setúbal, Porto and Douro, Tejo, Vinho Verde
    Fiuza & Bright - Sociedade Vitivinicola Lda
    Wine regions: Tejo
    José Repolho - Vinhos Distintos, Lda
    Wine regions: Lisboa, Tejo
    Quinta da Badula, Lda.
    Wine regions: Tejo
    Quinta do Casal Monteiro, S.A.
    Wine regions: Tejo
    Vale D'Algares - Quatro Âncoras, SA
    Wine regions: Tejo

Vinho Verde
Vinho Verde is the biggest DOC of Portugal, up in the cool, rainy, verdant north west. The vines grow in fertile, granite soils along rivers that flow from the mountains of the east to burst out into the ocean between golden surfing beaches.

The outer boundaries of both the “Vinho Regional” Minho and DOC Vinho Verde are the same, stretching from the River Minho in the north, which forms Portugal’s border with Spain, as far down the coast as the city of Porto (Oporto), but inland extending a further 30km south of the river Douro.

Cool, wet weather always makes ripening more difficult, but the climatic problems were long compounded in the region by the tradition of training vines along pergolas on the edges of fields, and sometimes up trees, in order to gain space and free up the centre of fields for other crops.

There are many smallholdings (many are really small), and grapes are still often trained in this way, but modern vineyards, and certainly the vineyards of major estates, are now low-trained on wires, giving better exposure to the limited sun, and better ripening.

Vinho Verde is still distinguished by its high acidity. Flavour depends on the grape varieties used - floral Loureiro, steely Trajadura, mineral Arinto (known here as Pedernã), creamy and mineral Avesso, and the fine, mineral, subtly fragrant Alvarinho. Azal Branco is hard to ripen and declining in popularity, and in any case tends to get blended with more aromatic grapes. Most white Vinho Verde can be relied upon to be light, crisp and aromatic, often with a light prickle of fizz, sometimes with a touch of sweetness.

The fine Alvarinho grape rules around the towns of Melgaço and Monção in the north, along the Minho river. The climate here is warmer and drier, the maritime influence partially blocked by hills, and the combination of grape and climate makes for richer, fuller, subtly complex wines, made dry and totally still.

The DOC Vinho Verde has also permitted fully sparkling wines since 1999 – a growing and promising venture. And there is a lot of red Vinho Verde, too - dark, high in acidity, low in alcohol, made principally from the late-ripening, red-fleshed Vinhão grape.

There are nine sub-regions to the DOC, named after rivers or towns: Monção, Melgaço, Lima, Basto, Cávado, Ave, Amarante, Baião, Sousa and Paiva.

wine makers
    A & D Serviços e Investimentos, Lda.
    Wine regions: Vinho Verde
    Adega Cooperativa de Ponte de Lima
    Wine regions: Vinho Verde
    Adega Cooperativa Regional de Monção
    Wine regions: Vinho Verde
    Aliança Vinhos de Portugal
    Wine regions: Alentejo, Bairrada, Beira Interior, Dão and Lafões, Porto and Douro, Vinho Verde
    Ana Alcina Taveira Machado
    Wine regions: Vinho Verde
    Artur Pinto
    Wine regions: Vinho Verde
    Aveleda - Sociedade Agrícola e Comercial da Quinta da Aveleda
    Wine regions: Vinho Verde
    Casa de Cello, Gestão Rural, Lda.
    Wine regions: Dão and Lafões, Vinho Verde
    Casa Santa Eulália
    Wine regions: Vinho Verde
    Caves Campelo
    Wine regions: Dão and Lafões, Porto and Douro, Vinho Verde
    Caves da Montanha
    Wine regions: Alentejo, Bairrada, Dão and Lafões, Lisboa, Península de Setúbal, Porto and Douro, Vinho Verde
    Caves Messias
    Wine regions: Bairrada, Dão and Lafões, Porto and Douro, Vinho Verde
    Enoport United Wines
    Wine regions: Alentejo, Dão and Lafões, Lisboa, Península de Setúbal, Porto and Douro, Tejo, Vinho Verde
    F. Trigueiros & Filhos, Lda
    Wine regions: Alentejo, Vinho Verde
    Fundação Eça de Queiroz
    Wine regions: Vinho Verde
    Garantia das Quintas - Sociedade Agrícola e Comercial, Lda.
    Wine regions: Vinho Verde
    JFS - Sociedade Vinícola
    Wine regions: Vinho Verde
    José Maria da Fonseca Vinhos, S.A.
    Wine regions: Alentejo, Dão and Lafões, Península de Setúbal, Porto and Douro, Vinho Verde
    Manuel Nunes Costa Camizão
    Wine regions: Vinho Verde
    Mário Bernardo Magalhães Sousa
    Wine regions: Vinho Verde

Porto and Douro
Long famous as the source of port wine, the Douro is now also renowned for its fine, rich unfortified wines, both red and white.

This is one of the wildest, most mountainous and rugged wine regions of Portugal, cut through in deep twists and turns by the River Douro. Defying gravity on the steep slopes along the banks of the river and its tributaries, the vines are planted in poor, schistous soils.

Man has engraved his own contours here – in the centre of the region, the historic, narrow, stone-walled vine terraces have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while elsewhere, modern terraces are wider, buttressed by steep banks of earth.

The wine region follows the course of the river down from the Spanish border to a point near the town of Mesão Frio, about 90km up-river from the city of Porto (Oporto). Here the Serra do Marão rises up, protecting the region from the influence of the Atlantic Ocean.

Rain falls mainly on the western side of the Marão range, and to a certain extent in the western end of the Douro wine region, but dwindle further up-river, and by the Spanish border conditions are almost desert-like.

The Douro region is divided into three sub-regions: from west to east the Baixo Corgo, Cima Corgo and Douro Superior. The fertile, cooler, rainier Baixo Corgo, closest to the Serra do Marão, is the sub region with the most vineyards.

The Cima Corgo, including the towns of Pinhão, São João da Pesqueira and Tua, is the heartland of fine port production, also the source of many of today’s fine unfortified wines. The Douro Superior, very cold in winter, infernally hot in summer, is the biggest of the sub-regions (by no means all planted but much planting is underway).

The Douro has a huge selection of local grape varieties, and many vineyards of impressive, gnarled old vines that give small yields of rich, complex wine, whether for port or for unfortified wines. Dozens of different grape varieties may be mixed together in these old vineyards. In modern vineyards, vines are planted separately, and five grapes have been declared the top choice for port: Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão.

Plantations of the red-juiced, high-acid Sousão, as known as Vinhão elsewhere, have increased recently. Another black grape much planted in older vineyards is Tinta Amarela (as known as Trincadeira). Amongst whites, notable grapes are Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Moscatel, Rabigato and Viosinho. Some of these, from old, mixed-variety vineyards at high altitudes, are being used for a new generation of dry white wines.

wine makers
    Aliança Vinhos de Portugal
    Wine regions: Alentejo, Bairrada, Beira Interior, Dão and Lafões, Porto and Douro, Vinho Verde
    António Augusto Teixeira Fraga
    Wine regions: Porto and Douro
    António Vicente
    Wine regions: Porto and Douro
    Barão de Vilar - Vinhos, SA
    Wine regions: Porto and Douro
    Biomanz - Produtos Biológicos Lda
    Wine regions: Lisboa, Península de Setúbal, Porto and Douro
    Caves Campelo
    Wine regions: Dão and Lafões, Porto and Douro, Vinho Verde
    Caves da Montanha
    Wine regions: Alentejo, Bairrada, Dão and Lafões, Lisboa, Península de Setúbal, Porto and Douro, Vinho Verde
    Caves do Freixo, S.A.
    Wine regions: Alentejo, Bairrada, Beira Interior, Dão and Lafões, Porto and Douro
    Caves Messias
    Wine regions: Bairrada, Dão and Lafões, Porto and Douro, Vinho Verde
    Caves Primavera
    Wine regions: Bairrada, Dão and Lafões, Porto and Douro
    Companhia Geral da Agricultura das Vinhas do Alto Douro
    Wine regions: Porto and Douro
    DFJ Vinhos
    Wine regions: Alentejo, Algarve, Lisboa, Península de Setúbal, Porto and Douro, Tejo
    Domingos Alves de Sousa
    Wine regions: Porto and Douro
    D'Origem Sociedade Agricola & Comercial, Lda
    Wine regions: Porto and Douro
    Wine regions: Porto and Douro
    Encosta Longa - Sociedade Vinícola, Lda.
    Wine regions: Porto and Douro
    Enoport United Wines
    Wine regions: Alentejo, Dão and Lafões, Lisboa, Península de Setúbal, Porto and Douro, Tejo, Vinho Verde
    J. A. M. Bulas Cruz
    Wine regions: Porto and Douro
    J. F. Lurton Portugal Lda
    Wine regions: Porto and Douro
    J. Portugal Ramos
    Wine regions: Alentejo, Porto and Douro

Madeira's fortified wines keep practically for ever - they have been known to survive for more than two centuries.

Out in the Atlantic, on the same latitude as Casablanca, the island enjoys mild temperatures throughout the year, but the climate is also strongly influenced by the ocean. It is extremely mountainous, with deep valleys and steep slopes where the vines grow on little terraces in fertile, acid, volcanic soils that are very rich in organic matter.

Vines are mostly trained on traditional pergolas, the bunches hanging below, shaded from the sun by exuberant foliage. Yields are high. The resulting grapes have high acidity – a distinguishing feature that they pass on to all Madeira wines.

A small clutch of historic Madeira grapes are known as the ‘noble’ varieties: Sercial, Verdelho, Boal, Malvasia (sometimes called Malmsey) and the rarer Terrantez. All are white, and the first four are traditionally vinified to give different degrees of sweetness in the finished wine: respectively dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet and sweet.

Terrantez makes fine, dry wines with very marked acidity.  However, 80 per cent of the island’s vineyards are planted with another variety, Tinta Negra, which is made into fortified wines of all four traditional sweetnesses. Some table wines are also made on the islands.

madeira is a portuguese island some five hundred miles off the coast of morroco. madeira is a wine of unique character having fruitness of port and tonicy tang of sherry. the name madeira in portuguese means wood and probably refers to the thick layer of fertile potash soil, an incentared ash of a million trees which were burnt there five hundred years ago.
madeira involves one process which is unique in wine making i.e. baking the wine. once fermentation is finished wine is placed in warm rooms called Estufas (like ovens) where temperature is slowly increased to 45 degree celcius. this process was invented in 17th century when it was discovered during shipping madeira improved its flavour due to expose to high temperature. madeira also uses solera system.(process also known as maderization).

·         It can be served as an aperitif.
·         Sweet ones can be served as dessert wine.
·         Very popular as tonic wine because of presence of minerals.
·         As a substitute for sherry.
·         As an accompaniment  to soup and Madeira cake.

Wine makers
Blandy, Cossart Gordon, Leacock, Power Drury, Rutherford and Miles.

West and north of the city of Lisbon, the Lisboa wine region was until recently known as Estremadura. A lot of wine is made here, much of it in co-operatives, in a very wide variety of styles and qualities. This region where the "vinho regional" Lisboa is predominant also has nine DOC.

Lisboa is a long, thin region running up beside the Atlantic. Wind is inevitably a strong feature beside the coast – no wonder that these undulating hills bristle with windmills, and no wonder that coastal vines are wind-stressed and hard pressed to ripen their grapes. Just a little way inland, however, a backbone of hill and mountain ranges offers some protection to many eastern parts of the Lisboa region. 

A number of the top wine estates of Lisboa are in or around the DOC region of Alenquer, tucked in to the east of the Serra de Montejunto, and therefore a little warmer, a little less windy and wet. Grapes can ripen well, and red wines especially can be top class.

DOC Arruda likewise is protected behind hills, just to the south of Alenquer. These two DOCs, along with DOC Torres Vedras (to the cooler, windier east of Alenquer), relaxed their grape restrictions in 2002 to allow some new national and international grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon, Touriga Franca, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Just south again, between Arruda and the city of Lisbon, is the small but high-quality white wine region of Bucelas, with sheltering hills to the west and the wide, nearly land-locked estuary of the Tagus to the east. DOC Bucelas is a fresh, crisp, dry, mineral white, made with a minimum of 75 per cent Arinto, sometimes with Rabo de Ovelha and Sercial. There is also sparkling Bucelas.

A gap in the hills on a level with the Peniche Peninsula and the town of Óbidos means that the DOC Óbidos, region in the centre-east of VR Lisboa is windy and cool. These are ideal conditions for growing grapes for sparkling wines, and indeed some of Portugal’s best sparkling wines come from Óbidos. The DOC of Lourinhã, between the Óbidos wine region and the ocean, is cooler and windier still, and this DOC, whose grapes ripen with difficulty, is therefore restricted to brandies.

The largest DOC region within the VR Lisboa area, up in the north, on the western slopes and hills of the Candeiros and Aire mountains. This is scenic, limestone country, clothed with orchards and olive groves as well as vines. It is possible to make good, rich reds and modern whites, but some traditionally-made wines here are low in alcohol, high in acidity, known as DOC Encostas de Aire.

Very little wine is made nowadays in the DOC Colares and Carcavelos, two once- famous wine regions by the coast, out west from Lisbon. This is prime beach and residential country, where there are many more lucrative uses of land than growing grapes.

Carcavelos, just west of the capital, makes tiny quantities of fortified wine that is nearly always sweet, from red or white local grapes. Colares, neighbouring the great surfing beach of Guincho, makes high-acid, tannic wines from red Ramisco grapes, planted in sand dunes, and gently aromatic whites based on Malvasia.

For the Lisboa region as a whole, the main traditional white varieties are Arinto, Fernão Pires, Malvasia, Seara-Nova and Vital, and for reds Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Castelão, Tinta Miúda, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira, but many other national and foreign grapes are now used for VR wines and certaAin DOC wines.

Vines love Portugal's southernmost region for the same reason the tourists do - it's never too hot, never too cold, and they can be sure to enjoy more than 3,000 hours of sunshine every year.

The ‘border’ with the Alentejo region to the north is a mere 20 or 30 miles from the Algarve coast, yet the Algarve suffers none of the Alentejo’s extremes of temperature. Why? A beautiful chain of mountains running all the way between the Spanish border and the Atlantic coast separates the two regions and blocks the hot, dry winds from the north, leaving the Algarve under the moderating influence of the sea – the Mediterranean to the south, the Atlantic Ocean to the west.

East of Faro out towards Spain the climate is warmly Mediterranean, whilst west of Faro the Atlantic makes itself felt in a more temperate climate, fresher and more humid.

The soils in the Algarve are very varied: sandy, clay, limestone, sandstone, sometimes very shallow over rock, with some rare areas of schist on the mountainous slopes in the north.

Anyone who has holidayed in the Algarve will recognise the the major towns that lend their names to the region’s four wine DOCs: Lagos, Portimão, Lagoa and Tavira.

For these traditional wines, the main white grapes are Arinto, Malvasia Fina, Manteúdo and Síria, and for the reds Castelão and Negra Mole. However, the new wine estates are making mainly Vinho Regional Algarve from national and international grapes: Touriga Nacional and Syrah, Aragonez and Cabernet Sauvignon, Trincadeira, Alvarinho, Chardonnay, Viognier... New estates and wineries are springing up in the Algarve – this is a region to watch.


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