The country of Portugal was historically a place devoted to mastering merchandising the seas. As a matter of fact, they were such sea faring folk that they went to great lengths to engineer their wines so that they could withstand long, drawn out sea voyages without being any worse for the wear. Although this area has given up on some of its sea faring feats, it is still well recognized for producing an amazing array of ports, not to mention the fame and acclaim it has received for the Madeira region and it’s rich history.
Modern Portugal still has a warm and sunny climate that is conducive to the creation of wonderful red wines. However, despite enough sunshine and a warm, temperate climate, some southern portions of the area require a massive investment in time and resources to irrigate the land and maintain the particular needs of the fruit of the vine. That said, the wines and wineries that have persisted across the land are remarkable for a number of different reasons and have attracted aficionados all across the globe.
In northern Portugal, the main cities and locales include: Douro, Dao, Bairrada, and Vinho Verde. In Douro, there is a river, and most of the wineries in the region are producing rather full-bodies red wines, made up of complex and almost meaty flavors and components. However, what this area is most famous for is their long-lasting and robust port wines. Port has historically been attributed to a strong British presence in the region. Having loved the red wines available in Portugal and wishing to preserve them for the long journey home by sea, the wines were fortified by brandy and the amazing creation of Port was born.
In Dao, mostly reds are produced, but there are a few white wine varieties highly acclaimed in the region. In Bairrada, wine is produced, but at a lesser quality or refinement than some of the other northern areas. Vinho Verde has an abundance of both red and white wines, but, unfortunately, they have all gained a reputation for being much less than impressive.
For the most part, the wines and wineries of southern Portugal aren’t exactly worth writing home about. There are a few whites and a few reds, but for the most part, everything is unassuming and not worth mentioning. While trips to the much further south can produce interesting vintages in areas like Alentejo, otherwise, everything is entirely unremarkable.
The Madeira Region
Madeira, for those of you who could use a quick lesson in geography, is actually an island that serves as an outpost of sorts of the African coastline. Madeira wines are created in much the same way as a good port is, but with one noteworthy difference: the wine is heated to at least 50 degrees Celsius for an extended period of time which serves to both oxidize and stabilize the wine, making it ideal for long voyages in sultry climates.
- Portuguese Wine Workshop, led by Rui Falcao. (gothicepicures.blogspot.com)
- Wine Basics ~ The Beginners Guide, by Brett Graham (wine-blog.org)
- Melba Shares Christmas Wine Choices (thewineprofilers.wordpress.com)