Portugal: Vine varieties

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Portugal’s vineyards have evolved in isolation. Only a handful of varieties have crossed international frontiers, leaving Portugal like a viticultural island with a treasure trove of indigenous grape varieties, 248 of them according to a 2013 study produced by the Associação Portuguesa para a Diversidade da Videira (PORVID). Since Portugal joined the EU, the most promising have been identified and the overall quality and consistency of wines has commensurately improved. Among whites, whose quality has risen remarkably this century, loureiro and alvarinho (in Vinho Verde), bical (in Bairrada), encruzado (in Dão), arinto (in Bucelas and throughout southern Portugal for blends), antão vaz in the Alentejo and rabigato, codega do larinho, viosinho, and gouveio (in the Douro) have emerged as leading varieties. Red wine grapes account for around two-thirds of production. Some of the most celebrated so far are touriga nacional (originally from Dão and Douro but now prized country-wide), Spain’s tempranillo (known as Tinta Roriz in the Douro and Aragonez in the Alentejo), baga (in Bairrada), trincadeira, and the French cross alicante bouschet (in the Alentejo). But as confidence and pride in native varieties has grown (and also a greater appreciation of the advantage of a point of difference in an increasingly homogenized wine world), more indigenous varieties are being sought out and celebrated. international varieties have made the most substantial inroads in lisboa and tejo, neither of which had a strong heritage of quality wines, unlike bairrada where the relaxation of dop rules about varieties has been controversial. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and syrah are now not uncommon blend components of wines from the south of Portugal, especially the Alentejo.