Portugal’s packing a punch!

Douro_Vineyards_fullPortugal is well renowned for Port, being sunny most of the year round, the Algarve’s fabulous beaches, excellent golf courses and much much more. Yet there are some facts that you may not know: – It produces in excess of 50% of the worlds cork and, positioned on the western flank of the Iberian peninsular, Portugal has a truly impressive seafaring heritage as it discovered much of the New World!

Wine making in Portugal dates back to the Bronze Age and the Romans, Germans, French, etc., during their invasions and campaigns, added their influences to Portugal’s wine arena too.

treaty of windsor1386 saw the Treaty of Windsor, which sealed the friendship with the British that has endured to this present day. When Britain went to war with France in 17th century, it impeded the Brits access to wine resulting in Port taking over as ‘The Englishman’s Wine’.

For the majority of the 20th century it was secluded politically resulting in economic turmoil. There were lots of very small vineyards and wineries, therefore, with the isolation and lack of funding, the grape growers and wine makers tended to concentrate their efforts on their own indigenous grape varieties – there’s around 250 of them! Portugal joined the EU in 1986 and the wine industry has undergone extensive re-structuring with EU funding and other investments. Today Portugal has some of the most modern wineries in Europe!

For such a small country, Portugal has a variety of climates from warm maritime on the coast to hot continental the more inland you get. Add into the mix the diversity of their grapes, the majority are indigenous that generally haven’t ventured outside of Portugal, which is pretty uncommon these days.  It’s unsurprising, therefore, that there is such a wide range of styles of wine. Vinho Verde’s pale dry, light and low alcohol young wines are the complete antithesis of the full bodied still reds from the Douro, its ‘next door’ wine region neighbour!!

awardsThe quality of still/light wines being produced from Portugal is on a trajectory upwards. They’ve been bagging lots of International awards these past few years and giving the other old and new world countries a run for their money!!

Here some key grapes to look out for?

Red grapes:

  • Touriga Nacional
    • Portugals national grape.  It’s DNA is not dissimilar to that of France’s Cabernet Sauvignon.  Intense colour, flavour and tannin.
    • Key region:  Douro
  • Baga
    • Key region:  Bairrada
  • Tinta Roriz/Aragonês
    • Called Tinta Roriz in the north and Aragonês in the south
    • Same grape as Rioja’s Tempranillo
    • Key regions:  Douro and Alentejo

White grapes:

  • Alvarinho
    • Key region:  Vinho Verde
  • Encruzado
    • Key region:  Dão

quinta-crasto-2011-reserva-old-vines-douroDecoding the labelling?

  • Highest quality:
    • PDO (Protected Designation of Origin/Denominação de Origem Protegida) Quality Category, however, Portugal favours the use of their traditional term ‘Denominação de Origem Controlada’ (DOC)
      • Stricter regulations and controls apply re viticulture, vinification etc
      • Smaller defined areas
    • PGI (Protected Geographical Indication)/IGP (Indicação Geográfica Protegida) Quality Category
      • Portugal also uses their traditional term ‘Vinho Regional’
      • Permits non-traditional grape varieties
  • Reserva
    • Applies to DOC vintage wines
    • Must be glass bottled
    • >0.5% abv
  • Garrafeira
    • Applies to DOC vintage wines and IGP wines
    • Reds
      • >30m ageing (>12m in glass bottle)
    • White and roses
      • >12m (>6m in glass bottle)
  •  Classico
    • Applies to Bairrada DOC must be >50% Baga
  • Quinta – Estate
  • Vinho Velhas – Old Vines

If you’re visiting Portugal, we highly recommend booking a visit to a vineyard. There are some truly amazing sites or take the train across the spectacular Douro Valley, you won’t be disappointed.

Tanners of Shrewsbury and Great Western Wines are some of the retailers who have decent stocks of Portuguese wines. We recommend Dourum Colheita & their Reserva Vinho Velhas as well as the Quinta do Crasto Reserva Vinho Velhas.

Enjoy!!!

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