Taking time for Portugal

The last bastion of undiscovered indigenous gems?

 


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 Portugal

Although 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.


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Comments

  • Periquita is a brand created by Jose Maria Fonseca and not a grape. The grape they use to create Periquita is Castelão. Hope that helps.

    Mar 10, 2010 at 12:37 PM


  • Snooth User: fgm1064
    253909 28

    Great article and education. You could have recommended some wines though.

    Mar 10, 2010 at 5:53 PM


  • We have a large Portuguese-American community in this part of the country (Southern New England). Consequently, a lot of Portuguese wine is available. Casal Garcia Vinho Verde is a great wine, and among the reds my fave is Toutalga. The unbelievable thing about these is the pricing, less that $5.00-7.00 a bottle!

    Mar 10, 2010 at 6:20 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 231,032

    Thanks Chris.

    Wine recommendations are coming. the topic is too vast to cover in only one email.

    Porca de Murca is my current favorite. A fantastic red that is inexpensive but doesn't drink that way!

    Mar 10, 2010 at 6:27 PM


  • Snooth User: JCruz
    121669 4

    Portugal has many wine regions and many great wines. My favorite regions though, are Palmela (I recommend Dona Ermelinda, from Casa Ermelinda Freitas, a great wine with a very good price/quality relation, to begin with) and the wines from Alentejo (a bit expensive, but you have to try Tapada de Coelheiros!, from the same winery, you may also want to try Vinha da Tapada).

    If you want some more recommendations, I'd be more than glad to provide you some.

    Mar 11, 2010 at 6:12 AM


  • Snooth User: Gaelchef
    Hand of Snooth
    286292 35

    Hi Chris,
    Periquita is a grape variety and is a nickname used in S. Portugal for Castelao. Castelao is also called Joao de Santarem in areas. The JM da Fonseca's Periquita Classico label is of more recent origin.

    Cathal.

    Mar 11, 2010 at 8:33 AM


  • I´m sorry, but Periquita is also a grape. The main name is Castelão.

    Mar 11, 2010 at 9:15 AM


  • Snooth User: Gaelchef
    Hand of Snooth
    286292 35

    Hi Marcello,

    I agree with you that Periquita is a grape. I hope Chris reads our comments.

    Cathal.

    Mar 11, 2010 at 9:31 AM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 231,032

    It has been my understanding as well.

    Thanks for both of your comments.

    Mar 11, 2010 at 11:04 AM


  • Snooth User: tking535
    364227 3

    I am really enjoying your work!!! I thought I knew a lot about wine. BS. You are educating me!!! -- Tom King, Knoxville, TN

    Mar 12, 2010 at 7:08 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 231,032

    Thanks Tom.

    I only know so much. It's constant research and reading. I tell everyone who will listen that, as a percentage of what was available to be known, I knew a lot more 20 years ago than I do today. The number or grapes, regions, producers, techniques, etc. is just exploding and it's pretty much impossible to keep track of more than a fraction of them.

    Thanks for the kind words though. They are much appreciated!

    Mar 12, 2010 at 8:25 PM


  • Snooth User: lakatosc
    359355 2

    I love these articles on lesser-known (at least in the US) wines. Keep them coming!

    Mar 13, 2010 at 12:52 PM


  • Hi Wine Fellows
    If you want Portuguese wines or any information about it, please contact us. We are pleased to help you.
    Our adress: arcodovinho@gmail.com
    Visit our store in Lisbon, Belém

    Mar 13, 2010 at 8:19 PM


  • am from manila, and import wines from Portugal, I would say that these wines are fantastic, very different and lots of character... I hope you guys can recommend more wines from Portugal

    Mar 15, 2010 at 4:18 AM


  • Snooth User: wriskit
    160011 77

    Greg, Thanks for the heads up on Porca de Murca. It is an excellent red wine and an unbelievable bargain in my local Forest Hills, NY wine store at $7.99, 2 for $15. I give it 4.5 stars.

    Apr 06, 2010 at 8:07 AM


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