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Portugal Wines May Be Your New Favorites - Find Out Why

The Wines of Portugal organization held its annual tasting, "Passport To Portugal," in San Francisco on April 17th, 2024, featuring 21 producers of Portuguese wine.   It was a great opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with some truly outstanding wines.

Portuguese Wines

Portuguese wines have a bit of a branding problem. Everyone knows Port and Madeira wines, but how about Vino Verde or Touriga Nacional wines, two exceptional wines, and great price performers compared to comparable wines from other countries. So, here are 5 reasons to start trying Portuguese wines.

Five Reasons to Love Wines of Portugal

1. Vinho Verde

Vinho Verde in a word, well, two words. It is a great summer white wine with lip-stinging acidity that pairs well with itself and lighter summer fare, such as seafood or salads. Vinho Verde is actually a wine region in North West Portugal; remember, naming the wine after places is a thing in Europe. It's a blend of  Loureiro, Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso, and Azal grapes. Vinho Verde is low in alcohol and price, so you can sip away all season.

2. Port

Okay, you can't have a conversation about Portuguese wines and not mention Port; that's creating wine sacrilege. Port is a fortified wine from the Douro Valley in northern Portugal. (Port was named for the city of Porto in the late 17th century. Porto is where much of Port was shipped to other cities and countries). Port is a delicious concoction of Tinta Barroca, Tino Cão, Tina Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa, and Touriga Nacional blend. However, many grape varieties have been approved for use in Port. The fortification part happens when fermentation of the grapes is stopped with the addition of a neutral grape spirit (aguardiente). The resulting wine is sweet, alcoholic, and sensational. There are two types of Ports:  Ruby and Tawny. Ruby Port is processed in steel tanks (although it can be aged in oak barrels); Tawny Port is aged in oak barrels. Ruby Port tends to be fruitier, while Tawny Port has more oxidative nutty flavors and can be served successfully with more than just desserts.

3. Madeira

Madeira is one of those wines that have been around literally forever. It was a big favorite of Thomas Jefferson. Made and named for the Madeira Islands off the African coast, Madeira is a fortified wine that can be sweet or dry. Madeira wines age in high temperatures, similar to what they experienced on long-ago ocean voyages aging through tropical climes, giving them almost a cooked quality. Madeira wines can be either sweet or dry. The wine is made from essentially four grapes listed in degrees of sweetness:  Sercial,  Verdelho, Bual (Boal), and Malmsey (Malvasia). Sercial wines are dry and can be served as aperitifs, while Malmsey wines are quite sweet and best served after dinner. 

4. Portuguese Red Blends

Many Douro Valley winemakers use the same grapes in Port as a non-fortified blend, and they are delicious. Run, not walk to your nearest big box wine store, and look for red wines from the Douro region. Douro Red wines range from light and fruity to lush and smooth to dark and dense, with flavors of mature dark fruit with herbal notes. These are big, bold wines and will make your taste buds dance. In particular, the wines from the wonderful Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional grapes are great. I tend to gravitate towards thin-skinned red grape wines such as Pinot Noir, but I make an exception with wines from these grapes.

5. Kalimotxo

What's better than a rum and coke? A red wine and coke; think of it as a Sangria shortcut. Mix equal parts of Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) with a squeeze of lemon, and you have a great summertime cocktail.


So here are 5 tempting reasons to explore Portuguese wines. Happy discovering!

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