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Guide to Portuguese wines

By Edited Aug 12, 2016 0 0

No doubt about it - the Portuguese wine is well known throughout the world and cultivation of wine grapes has century-long tradition. Locals often call it 'vinho com alma' - meaning wine with a soul .

Portuguese wines are characterized also by its vast diversity: there is young wine (white and red), mature wines (branco- white and tinto-red), fortified wines (Porto and Madeira), dessert wines (Carcavelos, Moscatel de Setubal), sparkling wines (white and red) and rose wine. Surely, anyone will find something special in this wide array of tastes and aromas.

Why Portuguese wines are affected by such a extraordinary richness of flavors and varieties?
It is not only different kind of wine grapes but also geographical location of growing regions in Portugal which are subject to various atmospheric influences from the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and even the influence of continental climate. Another very important factor is the diversity of the soils on which vines are grown. Granites, shales, clays, sands, calcareous soil, clay or volcanic - it all results in a unique quality and species richness of wines produced there. 

During my stay in Portugal, I had a chance to visit the famous Douro river valley (classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site). Magnificent sunlit hills, covered with olive trees, winegrapes, with picturesque quintas (wine houses) or farms on almost vertical slopes dropping down to the river. Many of these quintas are belong to multinational wine companies. On many slopes you can easily find which cultivation belongs to given brand owner. This is where wine grapes for Port wine are being cultivated. After all, wine grapes are picked, processed and transported to caves in Porto. I also had a chance to visit famous Port wine caves – and enjoy the versatility of tastes (yes, Port wine is the general name for more brands than one). Highly recommended places to visit during your holidays in Portugal. 

Now, after this intro - let me guide you briefly through wide array of Portuguese wines:

  • Vinho Verde is unique, characteristic just for Portugal. Known and loved around the world, produced in Designated Region of Production Wines - called Vinho Verde itself, located in the northwestern part of the country. Vinho Verde literally means "Green Wine",  young, which refers to his age, however, not the color. The best Vinho Verde is produced from the noble grape variety - Alvarinho. Characterized by a lemon or straw color in the case of white wines and the intense color of pink or red foam for red wines. This wine is light, usually lightly sparkling, consumed the fish dishes, seafood, white meat, always with a temperature of 8-10° C. Recently, it is also served as an aperitif wine because of its light and refreshing properties. My favourite brand of Vinho Verde, ideal during warm, summer days is wine Gazela. http://www.gazela.eu/
  • Port and Madeira are Portuguese wine ambassadors. These are dessert wines, sweet, ripe with very high quality, fortified with chilled brandy. Why with brandy? Initially Port was the wine widely appreciated by the English court centuries ago. To inhibit the fermentation processes of these wines during sea journey - brandy was added. 
    Among the various types of Port you can find: Vintage, Tawny Porto wine, Vinho do Porto Late Bottled Vintage or LBV, Wine Porto Branco (white wine), Porto Ruby. So as you can notice, Port wine is not only red. The most famous brands are: Ferreira (my favourite), Offley, Sandeman. Port wines can be also a great investment – a Vintage bottle bought today can be passed over generations, also increasing in value. In Port wine cellars you can see bottles from 1900 or even before!

    Alcohol content for Port wines ranges from 19% to 22%. In case of Madeira, from 17.5% to 22%.
  • Madeira is produced on the island, where the vineyards cover the terraces of the volcanic basalt, strongly sunlight. It matures in special warehouses, known in Portuguese as estufas. Madeira - the older, the better - even once opened bottle remains unchanged for several months.
  • Rose wine - excellent as an aperitif, dessert wine, digestif, to be served slightly chilled, with ice or as a base for drinks. It mixes notes of juicy strawberries, raspberries, currants, tropical fruit. Fresh, fruity, sweet and rather casual.
  • My favourite dessert wine – Moscatel de Setubal. The wine has a golden amber color, with the aroma of orange blossom, raisins and nuts. Perfectly matches with camembert cheese and sweets, with freshly made sweet pancakes, fruits, whipped cream and hot cakes with ice cream. As it is very sweet, it my be considered a bit ‘female’ – but definitely worth trying even my male wine lovers! 

Where to buy Portuguese wines online? There is a lot of wine shops in the Internet where you can order the wine cases with home delivery. However, if you feel like buying it ‘at source’ – go to your search engine and type: lojas do vinho (shops with wine) or compra vinho (buy wine).





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