Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Lisboa, vinho regional in western Portugal sometimes known colloquially as Oeste (West) and known until 2009 as Estremadura. Although it incorporates no fewer than nine DOPs—alenquer, Arruda, bucelas, carcavelos, colares, Encostas d’Aire, Lourinhã, Óbidos, and Torres Vedras—as at 2010 all but 6% of wine from this sizeable coastal strip qualified as vinho regional (VR) or vinho. Much is produced by the 15 large co-operatives who dominate the region, selling it in returnable 5 l/1.3 gal flagons known as garrafoes that are to be found in taverns and restaurants all over the Portuguese-speaking world. Some wine also goes to make Portugal’s national brands of vermouth. Focused principally on quantity not quality, Lisboa is Portugal’s most productive region for table wines. Unfortunately Bucelas, Carcavelos, and Colareas, historically the most distinguished wine regions, are now too small to be qualitatively significant. The latter two have particularly struggled to sustain their culture of winemaking where so much land was sold to property developers in the 1960s and 1970s, catapulting land costs beyond the reach of most prospective vineyard investors. However, hitherto uncelebrated pockets of excellence are slowly but surely emerging elsewhere, typically defined by Lisboa’s propitious clay and limestone soils and planted to recently introduced promising varieties, notably touriga nacional, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), and arinto, together with such international varieties as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Viognier. (Although, keeping the faith, newcomers Biomanz and Casal Figueira produce some exciting wines from esoteric local grapes.) More often than not these wines are labelled VR (even though relaxed DOP regulations permit new grapes), and count among their number the best and most promising wines from the area as a whole (DOP or VR). More elevated areas (up to 500 m/1,640 ft elevation) and those close to the coast are at last starting to reveal their potential for fresh, mineral-scented whites, also Pinot Noir.