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Portuguese Wines

7 de December, 2020

Portuguese wines are now a must in the globalizing 'world of wines', standing out among the other 'wines of the world'. 

Those who travel like me, carrying Portuguese wines in their luggage, realize that much has changed in the last 20 years. Finding a Portuguese wine on the other side of the planet is no longer like finding a needle in a haystack. 

Effectively a lot has changed... but there is still a lot to do. For Portuguese wines to achieve a really solid presence in the international market, it would be important that they be accompanied by our wonderful gastronomy. 

Now that would be an unbeatable duo! But for now, we are still an admirable surprise, especially when it comes to value for money.


Origin of Portuguese wines

The origin of Portuguese wines is thought to be the Tartessos, who cultivated vines in this territory around 2000 BC. After that, the Phoenicians came in the 10th century B.C.. But it was the Greeks around the 7th century B.C. who settled in the Iberian Peninsula and developed the art of wine making.

The story says that Ulysses toasted with wine when he founded Ulisseia, the name he gave to the city of Lisbon, according to legend. Moving forward in history, then came the Celts, who merged with the Iberian people, giving rise to the Lusitanians (Celtiberians). The Celts bring varieties of vines that they already cultivated. 

Since then, viticulture has been modernized and improved. This was the case during the Romanization and then during the barbarian invasions and also during the Arab invasions. Vine culture and wine production were never abandoned. 

When Afonso Henriques finally conquers Portugal from the Moors, the doors are opened to religious orders - such as the Cistercian Order, based in Salzedas and S. João de Tarouca - which give a huge advance to viticulture and wine production. From that time to the present day there are records in world history of the quality and uniqueness of Portugal's wines.


How to choose Portuguese wines?

How to choose Portuguese wines? When there is a lot of choice, the task gets more complicated... unless you know well what you like. In Portugal we have a wealth of styles and backgrounds which is impressive, especially if you compare our small surface area with that of other wine producing countries. 

Here we find wines for all tastes. If you like fresh, fruity and light whites, look for coastal zone wines. If you prefer medium bodied, mineral and good acidity whites, venture into the mountain or plateau regions. 

If you want fuller-bodied whites with good mouthfeel, head for the low-lying plains or warm temperate climate zones. And in reds the rule is the same: colder zones, lighter reds, warmer zones, heavier reds.

Characteristics of Portuguese wines

To compare the characteristics of Portuguese wines with those of wines from the rest of the world, we must understand that we are a southern European country and that this leaves its mark on our wines. 

We are a planted seaside country, which greatly tempers the southern character of our country. And it is these great areas that characterize Portuguese wines, which - not wanting to make the mistake of generalizing! - we can say that they are wines of good maturity, with good fruit expression and mostly generous alcoholic strengths. 

We have the Atlantic Ocean, the mountains, and the highlands to help us balance the heat of Southern Europe.


Types of Portuguese Wines

The types of Portuguese wines are the expression of the 33 DOC - Denomination of Controlled Origin - and 8 GI - Geographical Indications - that exist in our little Portugal. 

This means that we have wines basically of all types, limited by the influence of the latitude where we are and influenced by the proximity of the coldest ocean of all, excluding the polar oceans.


Where to buy Portuguese wines?

Where to buy Portuguese wines? I would say that buying directly from the producer is always the best option, because today our lives are so much easier. We find for sale online most of the national wines. 

But opting for specialized wine cellar closest to you is also a smart choice, because on the spot they can advise you and explain the characteristics of the wine you are buying. 

The most important thing of all is that you continue to take an interest in wines from Portugal and challenging yourself by choosing regions and types of wine that you will only know if you appreciate after you taste them. Go discover and surprise yourself. Cheers!

Hélder Cunha

My life is the wine
Alguma questão ou sugestão de tema? Por favor, escreva para: blogdoenologo@cascawines.pt

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