From its varied history to its culinary delights, Portugal has spread its influences from the East to the West. Ever the intrepid explorer, Portugal not only gifted the world their culture but delicate and vintage Ports and light Vinho Verde hail from the region as well. If one ever manages to visit Portugal, chances are they would see an area that specializes in a unique variety of wines. Portugal as a wine country is relatively unknown to the mainstream populace outside of Europe, especially in parts of Asia such as Hong Kong, so it is a treasure trove of experience (and quite an adventure for the palate) for any curious traveler!
Dubbed as the oldest wine region in the world, the Douro Valley in Portugal has unique and fantastic wines and Ports. This valley region stretches from the Portuguese Atlantic coast to the northern parts of Portugal, going into Spain. It is bordered by a long mountain range that follows the Douro River, the namesake of the Valley. Because of these unique geographical locations and attributes, the Douro Valley produces an excellent vintage port and is traditionally a wine country. In the northern part of the valley, you can find the Vinho Verde, which basically translates to “green wine” (although the name is not literal but refers to how soon it should be consumed). Vinho Verde wines are light and fruity wines, typically consumed with fresh seafood caught straight from the Atlantic. These wines have low alcohol content, usually at only 11% or lower, and it pairs really well with Atlantic prawns.
The Douro Valley produces noteworthy red wines, aside from the highly acclaimed vintage ports going south. Wines made from the Touriga Nacional grapes are one of the many excellent varieties made in the region. Douro Valley red wines are robust and hearty, perfect for a full Portuguese meal. The Douro Valley also produces barrel fermented, complex white wines. This Douro white wine is an excellent contrast to the white wine from the Vinho Verde region. Where the Vinho Verde whites pair better with fresh and light seafood, Douro Valley white wines complement fuller flavored foods.
Dão and Bairrada
Going even south, one would find the Dão and Bairrada regions. The Dão and Bairrada regions have their own unique and relevant histories, and both areas have their own brand of wine. The Dão region derives its name from the Dão River, where the vineyards are usually located. The region produces a wine similar to a red burgundy made from the great Touriga Nacional grapes.
We have the Bairrada region to the west, where a beloved Portugal dish called the Leitão da Bairrada originated. The Leitão da Bairrada is one of the more famous Portugal dishes and is made by roasting a suckling pig and basting it until the flesh becomes buttery and the skin crunchy and red. The dish is exceptionally mouthwatering, and the people from Bairrada complement this great dish with a pink sparkling wine called the Espumante. It is usually unheard of among tourists and foreigners, but with the garlic and black peppery flavors of the Leitão da Bairrada, a glass of delicate and fresh Espumante will undoubtedly complete your meal!
Other noteworthy wine regions in Portugal
There are other wine regions in Portugal aside from those mentioned above. The Lisbon, Alentejo, and Algarves Regions are genuinely worth checking out if one is on a Portuguese wine tour. Greater Lisbon is a lovely and dry area home to the cork trees that are used to make cork stoppers. In fact, Portugal is the primary producer of cork trees. The region also has fantastic lamb and beef that is perfect for a hearty red wine. Continuing down south, one will find the holiday town of Algarves where smaller wine farms called quintas produce their iconic wines. Crossing into the Alentejo Region, you will find their own version of robust and hearty red wines. In the North, the central region for wine-making is the Douro Valley, with its sturdy port wines and Vinho Verde wines. However, in the south, the Alentejo Region takes the cake with their hefty vintage wines.
Portugal as a wine country is not well-known outside of Europe; however, their wines are not something a person can scoff at. Due to their unique geographical location, they can produce quality and distinctive wines. Wine is embedded into the Portuguese identity itself, and its regions have their unique versions of it. Although relatively unknown, Portuguese wines deserve their moment under the spotlight.
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