Butler’s Quickfire guide to Portuguese wine

March 06, 2018

Butler’s Quickfire guide to Portuguese wine

This month, and most months for that matter we are all about Portugal. Nestled on the Atlantic coast of Europe and bursting with a broad range of delicious wines which happen to also be some of the best value around, this guide will help you know where to look and when.

Vinho Verde

In the far north of the country bordering Spain, Vinho Verde is notorious for its super fresh white wines. Named after the region itself, ‘Vinho Verde’ can be made from a spread of grapes with the top quality offerings being often purely Alvarinho, but the hallmarks are relatively low alcohol (8-12%), bright fresh fruit and often a little sparkle on opening. Perfect for a sunshine, an aperitif or to freshen up the day.

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Bairrada

Enjoying a relatively cool climate Bairrada plays home to some of Portugal's most defining wines and traditional styles. Traditionally the dominant red varietal Baga produced rustic, gripping red wines not for the faint hearted though progress in winemaking and international varietals have tempered this somewhat. Whites can be the curiously aromatic Fernao Pires, a grape gaining traction as very interesting around the world or blends of zesty, bright Bical & Arinto.

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Lisboa

Running along the coast around the Lisbon, Lisboa is responsible for a sizeable chunk of national production. National varieties are complemented by de-regulation allowing international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc & Chardonnay. A large climatic range creates a melting pot of styles and wines.

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Douro

Traditionally home to the world famous Port style wines and stretching across portugal almost to the Spanish border, dramatic terraced valley walls provide fantastic aspect and the region is suited perfectly to the growth of powerful, full bodied wines. Traditionally the core varietals of Touriga nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz & Tinto Cao dominated however some wildcards now creep in. In the past few decades the production of top quality unfortified wines have blossomed here with many traditional Port producers now onboard.

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Dao

Lying inland and sheltered by a series of mountainous areas, Dao receives large amounts of sunlight and minimal trouble with the weather. It sits at on a relatively high plateau, and as a result has its own rather different climate. Cooler temperatures offer a longer growing season, and with ample sunlight the wines share potent body and structure, but have sufficient acidity that they can age rather well. The whites from here can be top drawer, some from the Encruzado varietal can be very Burgundian. Rich and full bodied with great acidity they are often barrel fermented for bonus complexity.

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Alentejo

Vast in scale and production, Alentejo producers a spread of the countries best value red and whites. Lots of Aragonez and Alicante Bouschet on the red front, and whites an eclectic spread.

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Madeira

The volcanic island, a perfect home for a supervillain or more conveniently, the production of top quality fortified wines. Ripping winds and a cool climate mean the local grapes have ultra high acidity, with fermentation stopped through fortification wines are placed high in the rafters of hot warehouses to age, the sugars caramelising on the wood and producing the spectacular range of flavours unique to the Island. Wines span from bone dry Sercial to luscious Malvasia, and they can literally go for centuries. It's not uncommon to see wines from the 17th & 18th centuries on the market, should you be so inclined. A source of sensational value.

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