Portugal is probably better known for its port than its wine. However, did you know that Portugal is probably one of the richest viticultural countries in the world with 264 different cultivars of wine. There are a great variety of Portuguese wines and the different regions produce some very different characteristics.
One of the first mistakes foreigners make when coming to Portugal is to believe that they will find their favourite french cultivar (cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, etc) on the shelf here, and while you may find these from time to time most of the wines and cultivars are different.
While wine is produced around the country from small holdings, back yards right up to commeral ventures and co-operatives are very common. But let us take you on a tour of some of Portugal's more well known wine regions.
This region is in the very North - West of the country, from the Rio Minho, on the Spanish border down to the Duoro and slightly beyond. Vinho Verde literally translates to 'green wine' thus it is a new wine. It is important when buying a vinho verde wine to buy one that is not older than 1 year. Vinho Verde wines are available in red, rose and white. They are light and fruity with a little fizz and should be drunk chilled.
This region is most famous for its Port wine and it is widely known as the oldest labelled wine regions in the world. Wine has been produced here for more than 2000 years. The region lies along the Douro River and the grapes are planted on the steep slopes. A boat trip along the river is highly recommended in the summer for its stunning views. The Port wine and the city of Porto share a rich history.
The Douro wines are usually red and usually very good quality too.
This region produces the more commercially know wines and it is well known and liked. Vineyards are found mostly in the Modego and Dão river areas which are mountainous.
Dao reds are dark and fruity.
Moving further south the Alentejo region is a popular choice for those who like a more full bodied wine. The area produces mostly red wines and the hot, dry climate produces a good wine. Wines have been made here since Roman times and there is still a strong tradition of pressing wines by foot.