Portugal is a small country with an extensive winemaking tradition. It has 14 wine regions and 31 Designations of Origin (DO). Throughout Portugal's regions, we find vineyards and wine culture. Each region has its own climate, soil, grape varieties and traditions.
The Portuguese wine regions are:
The northernmost region of Portugal next to the coast has the lowest annual average temperature and highest annual precipitation of all the Portuguese wine regions. It is known as Vinho verde (green wine) because the climate and soil hinder the grapes maturation, making them greener. There are nine subregions with Designation of Origin (DO): "Amarante", "Ave", "Baião", "Basto", "Cávado", "Lima", "Monção", "Paiva" and "Sousa".
Between the Spanish border and the Minho region, in the north of Portugal, you will find Trás-os-Montes. The soil is a mixture of schist and granite. The temperature ranges are high, and the vines are planted on plateaus or on hills with different altitudes. In the northern part of the region, we find the Designation of Origin Trás-os-Montes with its subregions Chaves, Valpaços, and Planalto Mirandês.
The Douro demarcated region is the oldest region in Portugal and the world to be regulated and geographically delimited. In 1756, the demarcation regulated the production of fortified wine – Port wine. Nowadays, it covers not only the production of Port Wine but also the production of DOC - Controlled Designation of Origin, Port and Douro wines. It's divided into three subregions: Baixo Corgo, Cima Corgo and Douro Superior, for a total of 250 thousand hectares.
The Távora-Varosa region borders the Douro Valley and the Dão region. This region is located at the foot of the slopes of Serra da Nave, between rivers Paiva and Távora, and presents the Geographical Indication, GI "Terras de Cister" and Designation of Origin, DO "Távora-Varosa". The Távora-Varosa region is a small but very famous wine region known for the production of high quality sparkling wines.
The geographical area of the Dão region, formerly known as Beira Alta, is located in the centre of Portugal, in a mountainous enclave, which is an important physical barrier to the humidity from the coast as well as from continental winds. The Dão region is known for its vineyards planted at an altitude between 400 and 800 metres above sea-level, the soils are granite with low fertility. The traditional white variety of the region is the Encruzado and the red is Touriga Nacional, native to the region.
The Bairrada region stretches from Minho to the north of the Estremadura Province. The soils are poor and vary from sandy to clayey. Generally, the vines are planted in clay-loam or sandy-loam soils. The Bairrada region has a high thermal range with cold winters and very hot summers that are tempered by the proximity to the Atlantic coast.
This proximity to the sea is what gives Bairrada wines their incredible freshness and mineral content. Baga is the premier grape variety, a red variety with subtle colour and great depth. This grape variety is used to make the great Bairrada sparkling wines and the famous red wines with high texture and acidity.
The Geographical Indication production area of the Lisbon region covers all the municipalities on the Atlantic coast north of the Tejo estuary, bordering Beira to the north and Ribatejo to the east. The soils are generally rich in clay and sand and the climate is temperate. Rainfall is low compared to other wine regions in central Portugal, and some of its subregions are very close to the sea.
In the southern part of the Lisbon region, there are three Designations of Origin: Bucelas, Carcavelos and Colares. In the central part of the region we find the Designations of Origin "Alenquer", "Arruda", "Torres Vedras" and "Óbidos". The Lisbon region is well known for its Arinto de Bucelas, the Castelões das Lezírias and its Licoroso de Colares.
In the Tejo region, we find three distinct terroirs, known as: Campo, Bairro and Charneca. Campo, with its extensive plains adjacent to the Tejo River, is also known as the Lezíria do Tejo. This area is subject to periodic flooding and is par excellence the region for white wines, where the Fernão Pires grape variety is sovereign.
Bairro, situated between the Tejo Valley and the foothills of the Porto de Mós, Candeeiros and Montejunto massifs, with clay-limestone soils on gently undulating hills, is the most used area for red grape varieties, namely Castelão and Trincadeira. Charneca, located to the south of Campo, on the left bank of the Tejo River, has sandy and moderately fertile soils, and if on the one hand it has below average yields for the Region, on the other it leads to the refining of both white and red wines.
The Península de Setúbal region is located on the west coast, south of Lisbon. The climate is mixed, subtropical, and Mediterranean, influenced by the proximity of the sea, the Tejo and Sado river basins, and the region’s mountains and hills. Thus, it has low temperature ranges and a rainfall index of between 400 and 500 mm. It is in the Península de Setúbal region that the famous and much appreciated Moscatel de Setúbal is produced.
The Alentejo wine region comprises the entire strip below the Tejo river up to the Algarve hills, almost a third of the country. In a region of boundless plains, without any large topographic features, only the S. Mamede mountain range (1025 m), the Serra d'Ossa (650 m) and the Portel mountain range (421 m) stand out.
The climate is hot and dry with continental characteristics and Mediterranean influence. The amount of annual sunlight is around 2000 h/year, which favours the maturation of the grapes and the accumulation of sugars and colouring matter in the skin of the berries. The soils are very varied mixes of clay, limestone, granite or schist.
The region is divided into 8 subregions: Portalegre; Borba; Redondo; Vidigueira; Reguengos; Évora; Granja-Amareleja; and Moura.
The Algarve is Portugal's southernmost wine region. Algarve DOC wines – Controlled Designation of Origin are produced in 4 subregions: Lagos, Portimão, Lagoa and Tavira, where regional wines can be produced throughout the region.
The Algarve wine region is distinguished by its protection from northern winds by the Algarve mountain range, the approximately 3000 hours of annual sunshine and the proximity to the sea, with about 200 km of Atlantic coastline. The traditional grape variety of the Algarve region is Negra Mole, the second oldest grape variety in Portugal and indigenous to the Algarve region.
The Madeira region has a mild climate and gravelly soils of volcanic and basaltic origin. The island is covered with vineyards, changing the landscape dramatically. In the local farms, which are very fragmented and largely valued for a rather intensive polyculture, the vines are generally arranged in trellises or branches, similar to those found in the Minho region. Madeira fortified wine is the region’s best known wines.
The Azores wines are produced in the heart of the Atlantic Ocean, 1600 km from the mainland, in an archipelago with 9 islands. Graciosa, Pico and Biscoitos are the three demarcated subregions.
The nature of the volcanic soils and the markedly maritime climate give the Azores wines a unique and exclusive identity, irreproducible elsewhere.
The climate is mild and very humid throughout the year, with sudden changes. The result of viticulture in extreme conditions, the vines are resistant to salinity, winds, the lack of soil, proximity to the sea and brackish water. The indigenous white grape varieties of the Azores are: Arinto dos Açores and Terrantez do Pico.