Come followers of Bacchus, this is your type of holiday. Wine tasting is a great trip for older and young couples alike who want to learn about wine under the heady backdrop of sun, beautiful vineyards and lazy afternoons. And Portugal is definitely the place to go!
Portugal has only recently become known for its more mainstream wine production. Port and Vinho Verde will sound familiar but if you have a favourite wine, whether its Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay or a Malbec, there’s a high chance that Portugal will have a fresh alternative. And it’ll be worth discovering!
If you’ve seen the film ‘Sideways’ then you might have some preconceptions about wine tasting holidays. Rest assured, they are quite the opposite of this film’s chaotic plot! They’re fun, relaxing and fulfilling, plus you’ll get to take a lot of knowledge home with you and be wine master at all future dinner parties.
Where are Portugal’s wine regions?
Before deciding which regions to visit (so much wine, so little time), it’s helpful to split the country in two. This separates the north regions like the Douro and Bairrada and the southern regions of the Alentejo and Ribatejo. Essentially, the northern regions focus on high-quality wines while the south produces accessible wines at affordable prices. Here are the main regions:
• Porto e Douro
• Vinho Verde
• Peninsula de Setubal
Dao region (north)
This region has changed a lot in the last decade. Back until we hit the 1990s the Dao area was churning out wines that did, quite honestly, underperform. Now, the standards have been drastically raised. Dao is located inland and has wet winters and dry summers. The wine being produced in this region benefits from most of the vineyards grown at altitude and the soil is granitic.
One wine to look out for is Quita dos Roques, a bespoke winery that produces a variety of wines and they are distinguished by their striking yellow labels. Another is Sogrape, one of Portugal’s biggest wine companies, who specialise in incredibly fruity wines that are quite traditional but with a Portuguese twist.
Tipple tip: Visit the Casa de Santar vineyard in the village of Santar. They do great guided tours.
Wine tasting doesn’t get much better than in Bairrada because the region is known for and dominated by just one grape (called the Baga) so this very much encourages taste testing. Most of the wines from here are a deep red colour as the grapes grown in the vineyards are thick-skinned and high in acidity. You can also find some lovely sparkling white wines here though which are well worth the taste.
One grape doesn’t hold the region back. There’s over 4500 registered growers and most of the vineyards are over 50 years old. Notable producers in the region include Luis Pato and Quinta do Baixo.
Tipple tip: Visit the Bairrada Wine Museum on Avenida Cabechino in Anadia. They have a lovely vineyard, too.
This region paved the way for all others and it has enjoyed a series of successes of the years. The Alentejo region produces two styles of wine: Jose Maria da Fonseca’s Jose de Sousa which is when the wine is fermented in clay pots and is quite herby, and the Cartuxa which is a lot fruiter and a lot more commercial.
What you’ll notice about Alentejo is how large it is; vineyards cover the horizon as far as the eye can see, tractors are constantly irrigating the land and the air is dry and hot. Notable wines from the area include: Joao Portugal Ramos’ very affordable but simply excellent reds and David Baverstock’s fruity, oaky flavours. Alentejo might be enjoying commercial success but every bottle produced is distinctly Portuguese in character.
Tipple tip: Visit Herdade do Esporão, a great vineyard that is 700 years old. They also have three historical monuments and it has been honoured a national place of heritage.