Portuguese Wine

Guide To Portuguese Wine: 10 Best Wines, Regions, Styles

by Elaine Lau

Portugal offers an exciting range of wines, including refreshing whites from Vinho Verde, rich reds from Alentejo, and sweet Ports from Douro Valley.

In this article, we’ll explore the different Portuguese wine regions, the best bottles to buy, and the history of Portuguese wines. We’ll also talk about the country’s indigenous grapes and learn how to read a Portuguese wine label.

Further reading

Portuguese Wine Regions

Here are the most popular Portugal wine regions:

1. Douro Valley

Douro Valley

Vineyards along the Douro River are famous for their signature Port wine style. Even though it specializes in fortified wine production, the Douro Valley region has impressed wine enthusiasts with its dry wines too. 

Some of the most popular Douro wine grape varieties include Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, and Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo).

2. Beira Atlântico (Bairrada)

Beira Atlântico

Beira Atlântico is a Portuguese wine region located in the Beira Litoral Province. 

It produces rich Portuguese wines made from Rufete, Baga (signature variety of Bairrada), and Castelão grapes. 

The red indigenous grape varieties grown here include Alfrocheiro-Preto, Tinta Pinheira, and Touriga Nacional. Some of the white wine grapes include Arinto, Fernão Pires, Bical, and Maria Gomez. The region also grows a handful of international red grapes like Syrah and Merlot.

3. Dão


Dão is one of the oldest established wine regions in the country. Dão wine grapes usually have an ideal balance of ripeness and acidity because of the temperate climate in the region.

Some grape varieties grown in Dão include Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Alfrocheiro.

4. Lisboa


Lisboa (Lisbon) is a wine region situated along Portugal’s Atlantic coastline. It has 9 DOC sub-zones, among which are Bucelas and Alenquer.

You can find over 30 grape varietals in Lisboa, including international varietals such as Cabernet and Merlot and native grape varieties like Fernão Pires, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Tinta Roriz.

5. Vinho Verde

Vinho Verde

Vinho Verde (meaning green wine) is a coastal region known for its fresh and lively white wines. The wines are rarely aged in oak, and they’re best served young when the wine has a strong aroma and crisp acidity.

These wines often have a little spritz, adding to their freshness. 

Most wines from the Vinho Verde region are whites. But the region also produces some delicious reds and Rosés (mainly made in the Minho sub-region.) 

Some of the most popular Vinho Verde indigenous grape varieties include Alvarinho, Espadeiro, Arinto, Loureiro, and, Trajadura.

6. Tejo


Tejo is a wine region in central Portugal offering some of the most delicious and affordable wines. The wine region grows all kinds of grapes, from fresh Alvarinho (Vinho Verde grape) to full-bodied Alicante Bouschet.

Other grapes grown in Tejo include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Fernão Pires, Sauvignon Blanc, and Touriga Nacional.

7. Beira Interior

Beira Interior

Beira Interior is a mountainous region with a short and hot summer season, making growing grapes quite challenging. Yet it produces both red and white wines that any wine lover will enjoy.

The reds often have a prominent red fruit flavor with herbaceous and smoky notes, while the white wines tend to have a chalky minerality. 

Bastardo, Murufo, Malvasia, and Touriga Nacional are some grape varieties grown in Beira Interior.

8. Alentejo


The massive and highly respected Alentejo region in eastern Portugal has a hot and dry climate. It’s best known for its reds, often sold under the Alentejo DOC label.

If you enjoy Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon, Alentejo wine will equally impress you.

Some well-known Alentejo wine grape varieties include Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Alfrocheiro, Fernão Pires, Trincadeira, and Antão Vaz, and Fernão Pires.

9. Madeira and Pico Island (Azores)

Madeira and Pico Island

Pico Island is a Portuguese wine region, designated as an Indicação de Proveniencia Regulamentada (IPR). The wine region is recognized for its fortified wine, mainly made from Verdelho.

Some of the grape varieties produced here include Arinto, Terrantez, and Verdelho.

Madeira is also an island known for some of the most collectible and admired fortified wines globally. 

What’s unique about Madeira wines is their winemaking process. The winemaker heats the Madeira wine on purpose to enrich it with nutty and dried fruit flavor hints.

Malvasia, Verdelho, Bual, and Sercial are some noteworthy grapes from Madeira.

10. Other Portuguese Wine Regions

Here are other famous Portuguese wine regions:

  • Transmontano: This Portuguese wine region is divided into three sub-zones, namely Chaves, Valpacos, and Planalto Mirandes. The areas produce light to full-bodied wines. 
  • Terras de Cister: It’s one of the country’s largest wine regions bordering the Dão and Douro wine regions.
  • Setubal: This is a DOC of the Setubal Peninsula in southern Portugal, best known for its fortified wines.
  • Algarve: This area is split into four different DOCs namely Tavira, Lagos, Portimão, and Lagoa. Algarve is best known for its reds produced from Negra Mole, Trincadeira, and Castelão.

Now that you know the different Portuguese wine regions, let’s check out the best wine bottles.

10 Best Portuguese Wine Bottles to Buy in 2023

Here are some delicious Portuguese wines to buy:

1. 1999 Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas ($45)

1999 Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas

This is a rich and intense Portuguese red wine produced from the Baga grape variety. The wine has ample acidity and a strong earthy flavor with black fruit, oak, and cherry notes.

2. 2017 Rui Roboredo Madeira 'Beira Interior' ($37)

2017 Rui Roboredo Madeira 'Beira Interior'

This Beira Interior dessert wine, made from Tinta Roriz, is scented and flavorful. It has notes of caramel, chocolate, and black fruit.

3. 2014 Quinta Do Gradil Colheita Tardia ($83)

2014 Quinta Do Gradil Colheita Tardia

This is one of the best Portuguese blends produced from the Petit Manseng and Sémillon grape varieties. 

The wine is a lovely golden color, and it features a sweet aroma and dried fruit, honey, and raisin flavors.

4. 2011 Herdade do Mouchao Tonel 3-4 ($175)

2011 Herdade do Mouchao Tonel 3-4

This red wine is made from Alicante Bouschet grapes grown in the Alentejo region.

The red wine has a wonderful palate of spices and ripe black fruits. It also has medium tannins and a long finish.

5. 1952 Casa Ferreirinha 'Barca Velha' ($3,263)

1952 Casa Ferreirinha 'Barca Velha'

This Douro wine is bold and dry. It’s a delicious blend made from Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Cão. 

Some of its tasting notes include oak, leather, and blackberry.

6. Luis Pato Maria Gomes Metodo Antigo ($41)

Luis Pato Maria Gomes Metodo Antigo

This Portuguese sparkling wine is one of the most expensive wines made from Fernão Pires in the Bairrada region.

The fresh, fruity Luis Pato wine gives off citrus and honey aromas. 

7. W & J Graham's 'Ne Oublie' Tawny Port ($7,859)

W & J Graham's 'Ne Oublie' Tawny Port

This aged Tawny Port is one of the most fantastic Port blends to try. It’s a full-bodied, sweet wine with bright acidity. You’ll notice dried fruit, honey, and spice notes on tasting.

8. 2014 Quinta da Boavista 'Boa-Vista' Tinto Cão ($45)

2014 Quinta da Boavista 'Boa-Vista' Tinto Cão

This is an aromatic and bold Tinto Cão wine with medium acidity and polished tannin mouthfeel. The wine has fresh red fruit and spice notes, followed by smokey hints. 

9. 1800 J. S. Terrantez ($9,999)

1800 J. S. Terrantez

This delicious Madeira wine has a pure orange blossom aroma. 

The wine is sweet with notes of sweet peach and Indian spices. On the palate, you’ll notice a charming bitter-sweet finish. 

10. 2015 Casa da Passarella 'A Descoberta' Tinto ($15)

2015 Casa da Passarella 'A Descoberta' Tinto

This Alfrocheiro Preto, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, and Jaen blend is an intense Dao wine. 

The dry wine offers black fruit, raspberry, and oak notes.

Indigenous Grapes of Portugal

Portuguese Wine Grapes

Portugal has over 250 indigenous varieties, all wonderfully different and exciting. They’re known by different names in the different Portuguese wine regions. 

Here are some of the most recognized Portuguese grape varieties:

  • Fernão Pires (Maria Gomes)
  • Castelão (Periquita)
  • Baga (Bairrada)
  • Alvarinho (Albariño)
  • Verdelho
  • Touriga Nacional (Touriga)
  • Trincadeira (Tinta Amarela)
  • Arinto (Padernã in Vinho Verde)
  • Loureiro (Marquez)
  • Aragonez (Tinta Roriz in Northern Portugal or Tempranillo in Spain)
  • Alfrocheiro (Alfrocheiro Preto)

How to Read a Portuguese Wine Label

Portuguese Wine Labels

The appellation system of the Portuguese regions was established in 1756 to measure the quality of its wine. 

Here are the main quality classifications you might see on the wine label:

  • DOC: This stands for Denominação de Origem Controlada. DOC wines come from a strictly defined geographical area and are subject to stringent regulations specified by the region’s wine commission. There are 31 DOCs in Portugal. 
  • IPR: This stands for Indicação de Proveniência Regulamentada, and the classification is for wines produced in newer regions, waiting to acquire DOC status.
  • Vinho Regional (or IGP): Portugal is split into 14 regional wine areas (vinho regional). These areas have less strict rules for wine production than IPR and DOC. For example, a wine producer here can use international grape varieties in their wines.
  • Vinho de Mesa: This is the most basic classification of Portuguese table wine. 

Here are more Portuguese wine terms you should know of:

  • Vinho: Wine
  • Casta: Grape variety
  • Espumante: Sparkling wine
  • Doce: Sweet
  • Seco: Dry
  • Colheita: Vintage year
  • Adega: Winery
  • Branco: White
  • Quinta: Vineyard
  • Maduro: Mature
  • Verde: Green
  • Reserva: Superior quality wine of a single vintage
  • Tinto: Red

With that said, let’s dive into the history of Portuguese wine.

Brief History of Portuguese Wine

Portugal Wines

Some archaeological evidence in the Iberian Peninsula shows that wine consumption in the area started around the 7th century BC and winemaking occurred in the 5th - 4th century BC. 

With time, the Celts, Ancient Greeks, and Romans occupied the region and expanded the vine cultivation and winemaking tradition further north of the Iberian Peninsula.

Discover the Enchantment of Portuguese Wine

Portuguese Wine region

For a small country in the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal has a rich wine history and heritage of indigenous grapes, thanks to the different climatic influences in its diverse wine regions.

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