Situated in the extreme south-west of Europe, the country is bathed by a single ocean: the Atlantic. However, given its climate, its diversity of grape varieties and terroirs, Portugal has all the characteristics of a Mediterranean country.
It is with its famous port that Portugal has made a name for itself in the world of wine.During theHundred Years War (1337 - 1453), the British no longer imported any French wine. The demand for port became so strong that winemakers increased yields at the expense of quality. Faced with this, the Marquis de Pombal decided to restrict the production of port to a single region and to classify the vineyards according to a quality hierarchy.
Portugal is an extraordinary museum of grape varieties. To give you an idea, 48 varieties can be used in the production of port wine. So there are more than 50 varieties grown in the Douro valley, 250 in the country. The new generations have understood that each region deserves its grape variety and each grape variety its region.
In a country that is only one sixth of France, the diversity of terroirs and traditions is fascinating. Portugal's wine list may remind us of that of Italy, where the regions touch each other and occupy almost the entire country. On the red side, tempranillo is king. It takes the name of aragonez in the south and tinta roriz in the north. Portugal is surely the European country that has made the most progress over the last 20 years.
Douro Valley (45,500 hectares)
Portugal's nugget. Both for its wines and its landscapes, the Douro Valley is well worth its classification as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The vertiginous hillsides that plunge into the river have led winegrowers to cultivate their grapes in terraces supported by stone walls.
While the region produces very great white and red wines, it is historically known for its port: a mutated wine whose fermentation is stopped by adding alcohol to preserve residual sugars and which has a titre of around 20 %. The French have recently become the leading consumers of port ahead of the English.
Vinho Verde (34,000 hectares)
The vinho verde is a white wine that is characterized by its freshness, acidity and low alcohol content. A slight pearliness can enhance its liveliness. The region competes with the Douro Valley with whites of an astonishing precision, to be drunk young.
Lisbon (30,500 hectares)
Formerly known as Extremadura, this region is the pride of the people of Lisbon. The Atlantic influence confers a milder climate than in Alentejo. White grape varieties are therefore in the majority. Óbidos produces excellent sparkling wines.
Alentejo (22,000 hectares)
Wedged between the Tagus and the Algarve, it is one of the sunniest vineyards in the country. The Alentejo stands out for its red wines, which reach excellent maturity. The climatic conditions push some estates to irrigate the vines. International grape varieties that tolerate heat well, such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, have been appearing for about ten years.
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