Hot, sunny, and dry throughout most of its landscape, Alentejo is known for bold, big wines, often with high alcohol content and in-your-face fruit flavors. It's also a big region and covers the most land in the southern part of the country. Surprisingly, only a small percent of the land in Alentejo is planted with grapes.
There is a mountainous area around the town of Portalegre, and a coastal strip as well, but the vast majority of Alentejo wines are grown on undulating land punctuated with ancient olive trees and cork oaks. The soils alternate between shale, clay, marble, granite and limestone, an unusual diversity. The climate is clearly Mediterranean, hot and dry, with a strong continental influence. Many producers are working to produce more elegant and fresh wines, but it is not easy in this region – you have to plant carefully and harvest precisely.
Favorite white varietals include Antão Vaz, Arinto and Roupeiro, as well as the lesser known Diagalves, Manteúdo, Perrum and Rabo de Ovelha. In the red category, Alfrocheiro, Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Castelão and Trincadeira are grown, in addition to the typically undervalued Moreto, Tinta Caiada and Tinta Grossa.
Just south of the Douro Valley, Dão is the oldest established region for dry wines, as the Douro was originally formed for the protection of the Port wine trade. The vineyards are oases between pine forests and rocky hills and deep valleys.
Known for its granite soils, varied topography, and multiple well-established sub-regions, this region also includes Portugal’s highest mountain, the Serra da Estrela. The vineyards of Dão are famous for their diminutive size; tiny jewels often no bigger than a backyard! It is because of this vineyard and landscape diversity that Dão wines are so revered in Portugal.
Wine profiles are typically elegant with good minerality, and bright fresh fruit. The primary white varietals are Encruzado, Bical, Cercial, Malvasia Fina, Rabo de Ovelha, and Verdelho. Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Jaen and Tinta Roriz are prominent red grapes, in addition to Baga, Bastardo and Tinta Pinheira.
Previously known as Estremadura, the Lisboa region, located to the west and north of the city of Lisbon, has the most DOC’s of all of Portugal's wine regions. This is a testament to the varied terrain, numerous grape varieties, and historic origin of so many different wine-growing areas.
Many of the wines of Lisboa have pronounced Atlantic influence, and some vineyards – such as those in Colares – are on cliffs just above in the ocean, planted in beach sand. Because of the proximity to the ocean, the grapes are greatly influenced by the sea air. More than 30 different types of grapes grow in Lisboa, and some international varietals are finding their way into the vineyards. Arinto plays a big role in Lisbon whites, as does Fernao Pires. The most commonly used red grapes are Castelão, the famous Ramisco grape from Colares, Touriga Nacional, and Aragonez.
Winding its way from Porto toward Spain, the Douro River Valley is Portugal’s most visually stunning wine region. In this place, historic terraced vineyards carpet the steep hills all of the way down to the river. Fun fact, t is also the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, established by decree in 1756.
The valley is famous for dry, complex table wines, as well as Port (vinho do Porto), which may very well be the most well-known dessert wine in the world. Dry wines tend to be made from field blends. In this region, mixed vineyards, often with several varieties planted side-by-side, play a huge role in the finished wines. Among the hundreds of grape varieties, five red grapes are stand-outs for Port production; Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão, Touriga Franca, and Touriga Nacional. Also important are the white grape varieties Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Moscatel, Rabigato and Viosinho, as well as the red varietals Sousão and Tinta Amarela (also known as Trincadeira).
Stayed tuned for future posts about the abundance of grape varietals found in Portugal. The next region we'll discuss is Lisboa, also known as the Lisbon region.
Hello, and welcome to RPW The Blog!
Who we work with is just as important as the juice they make. We want to know the family story and the story of the land, and we want to share these stories with you. Our wines are about more than just juice - sometimes it is legacy, sometimes innovation, and usually both. It’s always about the passion, and these are the things that are important to us.
If you want to learn a little more about Portugal and all of its diverse wine regions and the grapes that grow here, you've come to the right place. We'll also share with you all of the things we’re excited to be drinking and can't wait for you to try!
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