Portuguese Wine Regions | Part 2
Dão, Alentejo and Others
A Short lntroduction:
Portugal may be a tiny country at the far end of Europe but there is a lot to tell about it. Allow me to start with a few numbers and facts:
– Portugal’s total area is 92 072 km2 .
– lt only takes about 7 hours to drive from North to South and less than 3 hours to cross from Atlantic coast to Spain!
– Portugal has 14 diverse wine regions. There’s no other country in the world with a higher percentage of planted vineyards.
– We have over 250 indigenous grape varieties, with roughly 40 representing 60% of the total production.
– The production of wine with commercial purposes is known since the Roman permanence in Portugal, back to about 2 centuries BC.
– We have the oldest wine demarcated region in the world (Douro, in 1756), and two wine regions classified as World Heritage site by Unesco.
That’s how amazing the wine scenery in Portugal is and, as a consequence, how difficult it is to talk about it in such a few lines. Therefore, it is not my purpose to make a comprehensive Guide to Portuguese Wines, instead I will make an approach to my favourite wine regions and hopefully this will act like a trigger for you to keep exploring the wines of Portugal!
Dão is located in the centre of Portugal, among mountains and valleys with gentle slopes and rounded hills, with a cold and rainy climate in winter and dry, hot summers – unique conditions that will provide a unique wine.
The varieties in Dão are diverse but the flagship for the whites is no doubt the Encruzado, an intriguing variety able to deliver different styles ranging from the light, fresh to the richer, barrel-fermented version. However, Dão wines are ususally a blend of traditional local varieties like Bical, Cercial, Malvasia Fina, Rabo de Ovelha and Verdelho.
ln regards to the red wines the Touriga Nacional rules but it is usually supported by Alfrocheiro, Tinta Roriz (also known as Aragonez, or, in Spain, Tempranillo), along with the traditional Jaen, Baga, Bastardo and Tinta Pinheira. The style ranges from full-bodied, fruity and complex to a light, rustic yet subtle version and that’s why they are often compared to Burgundy wines.
l love the elegance and sophistication of Dão wines. They never disappointment me and Encruzado is simply my favourite white variety in the world!
Spread the Wine’ selection from Dão:
Titular, Caminhos Cruzados
There is something absolutely reinvigorating in Alentejo that may be captured in the vast plains with large oak trees, the endless horizon and in its people, relaxed, authentic and proud of Alentejo. The region enjoys a warm and dry climate, with an excellent “terroir”, that delivers unique wines with international recognition.
White wines from Alentejo are generally mild, slightly acid and with aromas of tropical fruits coming mainly from the Antão Vaz and Arinto varieties.
The reds are full of strong aromatic exuberance, round and smooth and they really know how to age. These characteristics are granted by the Trincadeira, Aragonez, Castelão and Alicante Bouschet varieties.
These wines are a true invitation to leisure and delight. lt’s genuinely my cloud nine wine!
Tip: Do not miss the “Vinho de Talha”, very typical in this region. A wine that ferments in huge clay vessels and is still produced according to Roman methods and traditions.
Spread the Wine’ selection from Alentejo:
Herdade dos Outeiros Altos
Known as “The Pearl of the Atlantic”, this island is also the place of the vineyards that give birth to the renowned Madeira wine. Despite its microclimates, the region has a moderately temperate clime, with oceanic characteristics. The vineyards stretch along the fertile slopes of volcanic origin and the deep valleys.
To produce the different categories of this fortified wine (ranging from dry to sweet) it is used one of the following varieties: Sercial, Verdelho, Boal and Malvasia, for the whites, and Tinta Negra, if a red.
Funny fact: The wine “Madeira” was considered, by most European courts, a very elegant wine. lt was even used to serve as a perfume on the ladies scarves.
Other Outstanding Regions:
Bairrada is a land of many and good wines, made with varieties of high quality, such as Baga, in the red wines, and Bical, in the white wines.
Tip: Taste the traditional slow cooked suckling pig together with the Baga red sparkling wine.
Colares is now being rediscovered and, fortunately, saved from abandon. Even though, the actual total production of this region is about 20 000 bts, and that’s why they are so fascinating and rare. The ungrafted Ramisco vines of the Colares region are some of the oldest in Portugal. And the Malvasia white wines are really unique.
Tip: Try to grab one bottle of the old Ramisco red wines still available in the market. lt may not suit your taste but it definitely will be a challenge to your senses!
Bucelas dry white, known as the prince of Portuguese white wines, is primarily made from the crisply-flavoured Arinto variety. There are different types of Bucelas wines with a variety of characteristics from fruity zesty flavours to rich, oak-inspired tastes.
Curious fact: The Duke of Wellington was so pleased with Bucelas wines that he sent a bottle to England’s King George 111. lt was a fashionable wine in London, known as the Portuguese Hock.
The nine islands of Açores are known by its outstanding volcanic landscapes, the exotic flora and quietness of life. The vineyards are surrounded by volcanic rock walls that release heat to the vines overnight and have a protection effect against bad weather. The Azorean fortified wines offer a remarkable freshness and acidity, the one from Pico lsland being the most prominent of all.
lmportant fact: The landscape of the Pico lsland Vineyard Culture is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
lf you missed “Part 1”, you can find it here!