Grapes of Portugal

It is a rare occasion that I get to attend a trade tasting, as opposed to running it. But while I am here in DC in between two trade tastings I am organizing, I was able to attend the Wines of Portugal trade tasting.

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Portuguese wines are probably that most people are not familiar with. Portugal lays along the Atlantic ocean and shares a border with Spain from top to bottom. There are more than 20 DOC wine regions and 250 grape varieties native to Portugal, offering a range of diverse wine styles.

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Many of Portugal’s grapes are indigenous although a few international varietals are being grown there as well (ie. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Chardonnay). And some varietals are the same as varietals in Spain but with different names. For example, Spain’s famous red wine grape Tempranillo is called Tinta Roriz in Portugal’s Alentejo region and in the northern Douro it is called Aragonez. Here are a few key Portuguese varietals.

White Grapes

Vinho Verde – Meaning “green wine,” these wines come from the north of Portugal. The wines are mainly yellow in color but some have a suggestion of slight green. They are bright, crisp wines.

Antao Vaz – an acidic grape used in Alentejo

Alvarinho – the Portuguese name for Spain’s Albarino, this grape is found in Vinho Verde

Arinto – widely planted in the Alentejo, this grape produces high acid white wine

Fernao Pires – Found in the Ribatejo, it is aromatic like Muscat. Also known as “Maria Gomez” in Bairrada

Perrum – one of the main white grapes of the Alentejo and Algarve regions

Verhdelho – a white grape grown on the Island of Madeira

Red Grapes

Aragonez – another name for Tempranillo, used mainly in the Alentejo

Baga – Main grape used for wines in Bairrada, as well as Alentejo and Ribatejo. Known for  high acidity and tannins and is capable of aging

Touriga Francesa – one of the main grapes grown in the Douro, characterized by a powerful bouquet

Touriga Nacional – considered to be one of the best grapes in Portugal also one of the principal grapes grown in the Douro Valley for port wines

Tinta Roriz – another name for the Spanish grape Tempranillo

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