Portugal is poised to become the next important player on the international wine scene. Unlike some of the latest flavors du jour, Portugal’s wines are coming disproportionately from old vine vineyards and indigenous varieties. It’s an exciting array of wines and styles that are ideally suited for today’s marketplace.
The vast majority of these are exceptionally affordable wines and are unique and distinct enough to stand out boldly against the sea of international wines that are filling retailers' shelves. So where to begin? In Portugal, of course!
Explore the wines of PortugalAlthough Portugal is a relatively small country, its extensive coastline, and varied terrain, make it idealy suited to producing many styles of wines. From Vinho Verde to Port, Alvarino to Barca Velha, the varied wines of Portugal are just waiting to be discovered. Learn more about Portuguese wines on Snooth.
Portugal is a pretty compact country, but the time it takes to travel from one point to another can be very deceptive. The countryside is rugged, pocked with valleys and almost endless coastline. The majority of the country produces wines, including the islands of the Azores, and, of course, Madeira -- so it’s difficult to get away from this challenging terrain. The truth of the matter is that it is precisely that terrain that helps make Portuguese wines so special.
In the far northwest of the country one finds the home of the famed Vinho Verde: Minho. This light, “green” wine is a summer staple famed for its refreshing acidity. Less seen in the US is the red Vinho Verda; somewhat akin to a Barbera, it’s a challenging wine that can cut through fat and salt like a laser. It's an acquired taste.
Moving to the east brings one into Tras-os-Montes, the home of Port and some of the most rugged vineyards in the world. Look down on these steeply terraced vineyards that hug the Douro River and you might think you’re in Germany! These vineyards not only produce great dessert wines but great table wines, as well. Tasting a dry red made from some of the classic Port grapes (such as Touriga Naciona, Tinta Roriz aka Tempranillo, and Touriga Francesa) can be a revelation. These are world class wines that deserve the savvy consumer’s attention.
Bordering the south of both Minho and Tras-os-Montes is Beiras, an area where one finds many dry wines based on the Port varieties. As these regions contain the most land under vine of any of Portugal’s provinces, it’s not surprising to find wines from Bairrada and Dao fairly well-represented on U.S. shelves.
While the wines from Dao most frequently rely on those grapes used in the production of Port, Bairrada has many important indigenous varieties. Chief among them is Baga. Long a grape that produced rustic, high acid wines, Baga is slowly being transformed into a world class wine. Now softer than it has been in the past, yet retaining the red fruit and vibrant acid that is its trademark, Baga is a variety worth watching.