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Portugal, a wine country

24/03/2020 Production area

Although not a very big country, Portugal is the sixth largest wine producer in the world. The fact that the different regions have extremely diverse weather and geology means that this country can offer a wide range of excellent white, red, rosé, sweet, fortified and sparkling wines. If you like the sound of that, why not take a look at our Portuguese wine section.

wines from portugal

Portuguese wine classification

Portugal has held onto its unique personality and, although it has long been famous for its great fortified sweet wine, Port, its other wines have finally reached the top of international tables. In order to guarantee this quality, the country assigns different identifying designations on each label.

VQPRD

Quality Portuguese wines produced in specified regions are high-quality, limited-production wines that are made from certain varieties from specified regions. This designation includes two subdivisions:

Controlled Denomination of Origin (DOC) wines come from the oldest producing regions that are geographically defined and regulated by their own legislation that determines the characteristics of the soil, grape varieties, winemaking and bottling.

Regulated Provenance Indication (IPR) wines are made in regions that need a minimum period of 5 years to comply with the quality standards needed to be classified DOC.

Regional Portuguese wines

This is Portuguese table wine that is made in a specific producing region.

Table wines

These are wines that are not included in any of the previous categories, but that, nevertheless, have quickly caught onto new-generation wine innovations, setting themselves completely apart from the old mixed wines labelled “garrafeira”.

The different Portuguese winemaking regions

With these classifications, there are currently 31 Protected Designations of Origin and 14 Geographical Indications spread across Portugal. A great diversity of different locations that can be identified using two important rivers as the starting point: the Duero and the Tagus. 

Northern Portuguese wines

These wines are made between the Spanish border in Galicia and the Duero river. A region characterised mainly by the presence of a large mountain range that stretches up to 2,000 metres in altitude. The areas to highlight are Vinho Verde, Porto and Douro. The first of these, Vinho Verde, is made in the northwest of the country and is known for its young, light, fresh and dry white and red wines. The world famous Port wines are fortified wines with great aromatic intensity, alcohol levels and sweetness. But although the Douro Valley is the quintessential home of Port, the reality is that elegant and refined red wines are now being produced in the Douro area, as well as balanced and dry whites. 

The central area

This area can be found between the Duero and Tajo rivers. This is where you will find the country’s two oldest wine regions: Bairrada and Dão. Two areas that are showing great promise despite losing their way over the course of the last century. Firstly there is Bairrada, south of Porto, which produces strong and fruity reds made mainly with the Baga variety. Then there is Dão, which is named after a small river that runs through the region and produces firm and somewhat austere red wines with local varieties. 

Southern Portugal

This region starts at the Tagus river and encompasses the vast Alentejo plain that covers a third of the country from the Spanish border to the east to the Atlantic coast on the other side. The areas to highlight here are the Setúbal Peninsula, known for its fortified Muscat, and Alentejo for its reds made with the Tinta Roriz del Douro, Castelão Francês, Moreto and Trincadeira varieties.

Madeira

Finally, among the islands, the subtropical island of Madeira stands out: it is very well known around the world for its fortified wine. It is the only wine in the world that is produced using a process known as “estufagem” which involves using a kind of oven to heat the wine, and means the wine will last for a long time.

A world of varieties

Given what we have said, it is clear that there are not many countries of this size that can boast such a wide variety of wines. Its isolated location on the Atlantic edge of Europe, having Spain only as its neighbour, has helped preserve the native varieties and unlike many other countries, they have not been distracted by the influence of French vines.

In terms of red varieties, the star grape is the Touriga Nacional but the Baga, Castelão Francês, Ramisco and Tinta Roriz or, as it is also known, Tempranillo, grapes are also widely used.

As for white wines, Portugal has recently made itself known as a serious producer. Native varieties like Alvarinho, Arinto, Loureiro and Maria Gomes are the most commonly used.

However, it is worth mentioning that vines are not the only plants in Portugal that wine lovers are interested in. The southern half of Portugal has the highest concentration of cork oak in the world and is the main supplier of cork for wine bottles. So, for more than one reason, Portugal is very much a wine country. At Decántalo you will find a good selection.