The Plurality of Portuguese Wine

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to write about The Douro Boys. This is a group of winemakers from five quintas (the Portuguese term for wine estate) that have put their energy together to make wine drinkers more aware of the variety of wine coming out of their UNESCO-recognized region.

“Together, they’re putting the wine-drinking world on notice about the excellent unfortified, dry wines of Portugal and the Douro Valley in particular.”

Map of Wine, Portuguese Wine Map, DOC Wine,
Courtesy: Wines of Portugal

Unfortified wines are, essentially, the wines we know as wine – while fortified wines are what we know as Port. Wine enthusiasts are aware of the value, diversity and tastes of unfortified wines from Portugal, but not everyone has enjoyed their share, or at least has had a lot of it. But times are changing and wines coming out of Portugal suit all manner of tastes from all manner of growing environments.

And speaking of growing environments, Portugal is a stunning expression of the balance between man and nature in a tricky act creativity and ingenuity. The patchwork stitch of Vino Verde – the scaling terraces of the Douro – the rolling hills and river banks of Tejo … just like any other wine producing country in the world, Portugal is deeply dimensional in terms of natural and man made influences.

What seems to be clear is that after a single visit, people fall in love with the Portuguese experiences and part of that appeal is the rich and varied plurality that is available. There is authentic variety. Wines from Portugal start at around $10 and even high-quality, age-worthy wines have an attractive price. They are food-friendly and are grown in some of the most beautiful settings with welcoming people. If the words feel jumbled in your brain or mouth, that is understandable – not all of us (including me) speak Portuguese. Try this handy pronunciation guide if you get lost.

If you haven’t sampled all that Portuguese wine has to offer, apply your current tastes to find a new expression:

If you like light and refreshing white wines:

Try Vinho Verde; the fresh green landscape is reflected in the white wine glass with a spritzy, high-acid, sometimes aromatic tickle.

If you like light-bodied reds:

Try Vinho Verde. Yes, it is true – this green region produces around 40% red wine, with a fresh and low-alcohol jazz that is great with charcuterie.

If you like your red wine dry, fruity and full of body:

Try Alentejo’s red blends made with indigenous and international grapes including Trincadeira, Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

If you like hefty bold reds:

Try Douro’s old vine field blends, where grape varieties grow together. Also consider the Bairrada wines, which hold the highest designation in Portuguese wine classification, Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC).

If you like Port wine:

Keep drinking Port wine. There are Tawny, Ruby and even White Ports, cultivated in their homeland, made by the most-skilled producers worldwide.

If you like sparkling wine:

Get your hands on some bottles from Távora-Varosa where the Malvasia Fina grown in the cooler climate presents a balanced, high-acidity bubbly.

If you like rich whites:

Try Trás-os-Montes, Alentejo and Duoro made from a blend of white varietals.

If you like rosé:

Try rosado from Vinho Verde with a berry-acid quench.

Portuguese vineyards, Porto, Six Grapes Port
One of these kids is doin’ her own thing. But that’s OK – it’s Portuguese wine! Credit: Jill Barth
Wine Pairing Weekend

This weekend our wine writing group shares ideas for Portuguese wine, food and travel. Join us for a chat at 10am central on Twitter on September 9th with the hashtag #WinePW.

Here’s what the team has planned:

From Camilla Mann of Culinary Adventures with Camilla: “Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato with a Vinho Verde”

From Lori Budd of Dracaena Wine: “Portugal’s Political History Effects Its Culinary and Wine Culture”

From David Crowley of Cooking Chat: “Best Portuguese Kale Soup”

From Nicole Ruiz Hudson of Somm’s Table: Cooking to the Wine: Passagem Douro Reserva with Spiced Wine Braised Octopus”

From Lauren Walsh of The Swirling Dervish: “Talego – A Taste of Portugal in Paris.”

From Wendy Klik of A Day on the Farm: “Rustic and Red”

And from Sue and Gwen at Wine Predator are our hosts this month.

Next month’s Wine Pairing Weekend is Merlot Me – plan to join in for a celebration of this classic, delish varietal.

20 Comments Add yours

  1. keithvs says:

    Two years ago my wife and I had the good fortune to visit Porto and then spend several days further up the Douro River, where the grapes are grown. It is one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world! And the wine is tasty as well.


  2. Wendy Klik says:

    Wow….So many wines to try and here I thought, until this theme, that all Portugal had to offer was Port.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Wendy, you aren’t the only one. That is something I’ve learned- and a co conception producers are trying to crack. Thanks for your comment.


  3. So many treasures in Portugal! Thanks for this easy-to-digest guide to the wines and regions.


  4. There sure is a lot to try from Portugal! Good overview.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      David, we have our work cut out for us – lots and lots to try!


  5. Great overview. I’m making my first trip to Portugal in 2 weeks. I’ll keep the pronounciation guide handy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      I’ll be impressed by what you learn. It will be a beautiful time of year to go. Enjoy!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great breakdown of where to look for what type of wine you enjoy. If I ever make it to Portugal, that pronunciation guide is fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Ha! I know – I am pretty sure I’d sound like I had a mouthful of marbles.


  7. Nice introduction to the varied styles of wine in Portugal! I hope to get to the north of Portugal next time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      I love all that you’ve shared with us. Thank you for being an enthusiastic guide – this was fun.

      I enjoyed learning about the Tejo region, an area totally new to me.


  8. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    Excellent overview and guide of the wine options! And this totally fits our experience of Portugal : “What seems to be clear is that after a single visit, people fall in love with the Portuguese experiences . . .” We always say it was “cheap & charming” and have been very much wanting to go back!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      I think we are all charmed this month. Time to stock the cellars!


  9. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    Also, just quick correction that that the Douro and Octopus is up at (not — Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Correcting ASAP. Apologies!


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