Our Top Portugal Wine Regions
For centuries, Portugal has mainly been known for one wine (Hint: Four-letter word for harbor), but it’s actually home to over 200 indigenous grape varieties—many of which you won’t find outside the country.
That makes Portugal an exciting destination for wine lovers, as it offers a rare opportunity to enjoy wines that aren’t widely distributed. Not to mention Portugal is also home to some of the most uniquely beautiful vineyards in the entire world.
Portugal’s wine really burst onto the international scene in the 17th and 18th centuries when a series of wars between Britain and France forced British merchants to acquire wine from Portugal. Wine making was nothing new there, it had been practiced since the time of Greek and Celtic settlers.
But Portugal’s calling card, Port wine, emerged during that time period of increased international trade. Winemakers added a bit of brandy to fortify wine for the longer voyage to Britain. The fortified wine came to be known as Port, since the coastal city of Porto was the major shipping center.
Port’s prestige grew in 1757 when Marquês de Pombal, Portugal’s de facto ruler, made the Douro Valley—where Port was produced—the first designated wine region in the world. This protected the quality of the product and ensured that only Port from the Douro region could be classified as Port wine—similar to Champagne from the Champagne region in France.
The designation DOC—Denominação de Origem Controlada—remains the highest in Portugal. Today, there are 31 DOC regions in the country, each with strict guidelines to regulate local wine production. The classification below DOC—Vinho Regional—has less strict regulations and allows winemakers to innovate with varieties and blends not found in the DOCs.
But the Douro Valley is more than Port wine. The Douro River starts at Porto on the Atlantic coast and weaves inland past picturesque hillsides and farms. Viticulture has been practiced here for over 2,000 years, transforming those hills into steep, terraced vineyards. And you’ll still find charming chapels and villages dotting the landscape. The region’s beauty and rich history has earned it a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon, lies further south down the coast from Porto. The region just north of the city, Lisboa, stretches along the Atlantic, which makes for a cooler, windy climate that’s ideal for growing sparkling wine grapes. The DOC Óbidos region is particularly famous for its sparkling wines.
Lisboa may not have the global renown of the Douro Valley, but it’s wines are delightful and affordable. Whether you prefer full-bodied reds (Arruda), light and citrusy whites (Bucelas), or refreshing, low-alcohol whites (Torres Vedras), Lisboa is the ideal destination to taste a range of exciting, inventive Portuguese wines.
Visit Portugal and try a truly authentic Port yourself!