Top 10 Things You Should Know About Wine in Portugal
They say the way to a Portuguese person’s heart is through good espresso, or through good wine.
Both of these drinks are standard procedure both during and after a dining experience in Portugal. Prior to visiting this land I was personally oblivious to the existence of any Portuguese wines other than Port varieties; something never to say to a Portuguese person!
If you’re visiting the country sometime soon you’ll benefit from knowing a thing or two about this industry, read on!
1. Portugal Produces Many Wines Aside From Just Port
Yes indeed. While Port wine is definitely the main export within the Portuguese wine industry, they country are actually producers of all wine variants.
White wines, dry wines, rosé, red blends and even sparkling wine are produced right here on the land. The climate in Portugal makes for ideal grape growing conditions and so production of wines is quite easy.
When you find yourself dining in and around Lisbon you’ll be able to observe all the different wine varieties listed on the city’s restaurant menus .
2. Port Wines Can Only Come From the Douro Region
The Douro Valley runs along the Douro river, which actually starts in Spain and makes its way all the way to the Atlantic coast where it ends at the port city of Oporto.
Port wines have been produced in this region for over 2000 years and counting. The soil is of a unique caliber and is known as schist; observing this soil and the climate in Douro, it’s a wonder than anything is able to grow in such harsh conditions.
Douro is classified as an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.
3. Port Wine has to be Sweet
Even if a wine maker in Douro, who only makes Port wines, suddenly produces a dry wine, it cannot qualify as Port.
Port wine is always sweet, no exceptions. It is the product of a fortification process, and this is only achievable when there is an excess of sugar left behind and thus an overly sweet taste to the drink.
Wine’s without sweetness are no longer fortified products and move into other categories of wine classification — end of story. Try to never get into a debate about this with a Portuguese person, trust me.
4. Portugal is the 11th Biggest Wine Producer in the World
500,000 acres of Portuguese land is dedicated to the production of local wines. This places Portugal 11th in the world as both a producer and exporter in this industry.
In comparison to countries like France and the United States, with physical land masses ten or more times the size of Portugal, this little country does a good job of keeping up with the big players.
5. Almost all Portuguese Grapes are Native to the Land
You won’t find your common Chardonnay or Cabernet grapes being used to make wines here. The grapes that grow in Portugal are in a class of their own and are rarely found to grow elsewhere in the world.
Some variants include Tinta Roriz, Baga and Maria Gomes.
6. All Portuguese Wines Must Carry an Authenticity Seal
Regardless of the quality, the grape or the estate, all Portuguese wines are packaged with an authenticity seal that identifies them as a product of the land.
You can always find these seals at the back of the bottle. They are not always the exact same, but are always a reliable means of identifying authentically produced wines.
7. “Green Wine” Refers to a Region, and Not a Grape
Aside from Port, you may have heard about Vinho Verde (or green wine) in passing when in reference to Portuguese culture.
This is a white wine by class, usually low in alcohol and incredibly light to drink. If you look at it closely it can sometimes look like a slightly granny/yellow tinted color; this is the result of the many blended grapes that go into its production.
The name “green wine”, however, has nothing to do with the wine itself and everything to do with the region in which it is produced. Vinho Verde is a wine region in Portugal.
8. You’ll Pay Less for Quality Portuguese Wine
Portugal is notorious for producing good quality wines and retailing them at a fraction of the price of what other European wine regions do.
Collectors who visit Portugal love taking significant quantities of wines home with them as the make for fabulous additions to any dining event, they come from an interesting, foreign place and they are affordable to enjoy.
9. Portuguese Wine Farms are Popular Destination Wedding Venues
When you take a free guided walking tour through Lisbon you’ll likely find your first thought for a lot of the landmarks being “that would make a great events venue”.
Portuguese wine farms opened their doors to the public in recent years and are now sought after destination wedding venues. The wine estates are usually an hour or so outside of Lisbon city center. They offer beautiful grounds, exceptional catering and of course more wine than your party can probably consume.
10. There are Ample Wine Tasting Experiences on Offer in Lisbon
To get a more tangible feel for the Portuguese wine industry you can make your way to any of the wine tasting experiences on offer in Lisbon.
Some, like at the Lisbon Winery, are paid experiences curated by professionals in the industry. Some wine tastings in Lisbon can be done at regular wine bars in Bairro Alto or Chiado, as a casual and more spontaneous experience. There are also free wine tastings on offer if you know where to look.