Where to Find Portugal’s Best Wine and Port
Portugal is an incredible travel destination for so many reasons: For the history buff, Portugal was one of the first European countries to become a global super power, and was the seat from which most of the New World was discovered. For beach-goers, Portugal has some of the most beautiful beaches that look out over the Atlantic sea, and average temperatures of 30°C. And for the foodie, its seafood is amazing (you have to try their octopus).
Because Portugal’s wine culture was relatively isolated compared to the rest of the Mediterranean, wine buffs will find Portugal’s wines to be unlike anything they’ve tried from France, Italy, or Spain. And of all its vintages and styles, the first you must try is the port.
This style of wine is so unique, it’s named after its country of origin and is the most recognized export of Portugal. Typically sipped slowly after a meal, port gets its unique taste from the addition of a distilled spirit (such as a brandy or cognac) which increases the sweetness and the alcohol content – sometimes as high as 20%!
Ruby – The least expensive and most common, its red-berry fruitiness makes for the perfect dessert
White Port – Created from white grapes, Portuguese enjoy white port on ice, blended with tonic water for a refreshing summer drink
Rose – Similar in colour and distillation of rosé, rose port was first invented in 2008, and is incredibly rare
Tawny – Brown from oxidation and age, it combines sweet and bitter flavours, similar to raisins
Vineyards and How to Get There
The Duoro valley is beyond picturesque: Imagine cruising down the gentle Duoro river, floating by the vineyards cut in terraces up the valley walls while farmers tend the vines, the valley bright green in the Spring and draped in a quilt of reds, yellows, oranges, and purples in the Fall.
In the middle of the Atlantic ocean you’ll find the small volcanic archipelago of the Azores. It’s a hotspot for wellness tourists as it features amazing hikes and iron-infused pools to bathe in, but it also has a unique wine culture.
The history of wine on the islands goes back 500 years when they were first claimed by Portugal. However, this history was almost wiped out in the late 1800s by phylloxera, a nearly microscopic aphid that attacks grape plants. The industry has only recently recovered, and thankfully so, as the islands’ vineyards are an incredible part of the visit.
Located in the north-central area of Portugal, the mountains that surround the Dão region protect its vineyards from extreme weather. That means the vines can grow healthy throughout the year, giving the wine a unique structure that comes from both the unique soil composition in higher elevations.
It’s fitting that the area of Alentejo would be a great producer of wine, as the region is filled with cork trees. Alentejo produces full-bodied reds and crisp whites, but even if you weren’t to try the wine, the area itself is well worth a visit.
Not only does Lisboa surround the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, it’s also the largest producer of wine across Portugal. It’s a fantastic area to explore from the comfort of the country’s capital, and is broken down into nine unique regions that feature their own terroir and unique flavours (however, one region is dedicated to brandy, not wine).