We all know that Portugal is famed for Port wine, but how much do you know about Portuguese unfortified wine?
If you are looking for a region that produces little known delicious wines, that offer serious value for money, then look no further than Portugal.
A taste for indigenous grapes
Many Portuguese wines, Port included, are a blend of different grapes you may never have heard of, but don’t let that put you off.
With over 250 native grape varieties you would be forgiven for feeling slightly bamboozled by grapes such as Touriga Nacional, Baga and Maria Gomes.
Although some international grapes varieties are grown (Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot), its Portugal’s own grapes that dominate production. Prolonged isolation from fashionable trends enabled the preservation of the country’s rich heritage of indigenous grape varieties.
A change in style
Famed for its Port production, Portugal unfortified wines were traditionally big and tannic. However, over the last decade Portugal has embraced modern winemaking techniques, making a shift towards making wines in a gentler more voluptuous style.
With a range of different grapes, climates and styles there is something for everyone in Portugal. Here are a few to try:
Light and fresh
If you ordered a glass of white wine in the pub this summer and noticed it has a slight spritz to it, you may have been sipping a refreshing glass of Vinho Verde from north west Portugal. These wines are pale lemon in colour with fresh citrus notes made from the Loureiro and Arinto grapes. If you prefer a slightly riper style of white, try Vinho Verde made from the Alvarinho grape, known as Albarino in Spain.
Rich and Round
For fans of Chardonnay, try Encruzado from the Dao region. Made in a variety of styles from light to rich, the best examples are barrel-fermented and can rival a good White Burgundy.
If you like your full-bodied reds, head to the Douro, the oldest demarked region in the world. Home of Port it also produces unfortified red wines with the same grapes. These reds will be a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (also known as Tempranillo) Tinta Barroca, and Tinta Cao.
Touriga Nacional dominants the blend and is therefore the most well-known. It produces high quality wines with complex flavours of black fruits and sweet spice from new oak.
Elegant and fruity
For more delicate fruit driven wines, the Dão is for you with high quality grapes such as Touriga Nacional, Jaen (Mencia in Spain) and Alfrocheiro producing a lighter style than the Douro. The Dão region is continental, with vineyards planted at higher altitudes producing wines with naturally high acidity, delicate fruit aromas, and firm tannins. These wines tend to see little or no oak making them more affordable and very food friendly.
For the Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo fans, head to Bairrada where the Baga grape dominates. It makes long-lived, complex reds with distinct acidity, high tannins, and full body. From rich cherry flavours to herbal, savoury, tobacco notes with age.
Let’s not forget Port
Although Portugal offers a lot more than its famous fortified Port, let’s not forgot just how delicious Port is. With Christmas only a few months away, ain’t you already getting excited about sitting by the fire with a glass of the good stuff in hand?
Looking for something a bit different? Try White Port, in both dry and sweet styles, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a festive cheese board.
Start your Portuguese wine journey today with this week’s Wine of the Week – Quinta do Correio Tinto from Honest Grapes – a perfect illustration of the elegant and fruity red wines from the Dão region.
Honest Grapes goes the extra mile to select growers with a real passion for what they do, producing some of the most exciting wines on the market. Explore the full range of Honest Grapes wines today.
Alexis Fuller from Honest Grapes.