Portuguese Wine

Portugal has undergone something of a wine revolution in the past couple of decades, updating its winemaking technologies, styles and attitudes. This archetypal Old World country has long been famous its fortified wines (Port and Madeira) and tart, light Vinho Verde. But in the last decade or two it has garnered a great deal of attention for its new wave of rich, ripe, table wines, with reds from the Douro Valley particularly prominent.

Annual production has ranged between 600 and 670 million liters between 2016 and 2020. Over those years this has placed Portugal in 11th position in the world, while Italy and France have vied for top sport with figures between 4 to 5.5 billion liters. There are around 200,000 hectares of vineyards (nearly 500,000 acres).

Terraced vineyards along the Douro, Portugal
©Wikimedia/Rosino

Portuguese grape varieties

Portugal's many vine varieties and their countless regional synonyms are the bane of ampelographers. Some are endemic to Portugal (e.g. Touriga Nacional), while others are shared with neighboring Spain (e.g. Tinta Roriz/Tempranillo). Overall around 250 varieties are considered as native.

The ever-popular 'international varieties of French origin have also been planted, with Syrah by far the most popular. Importantly, the current success of Portuguese wines has not become dependent on the latter category, helping winegrowers to maintain a certain uniqueness in their wines.

The OIV Report "Distribution of the World's Grapevine Varieties" (2017) listed Portugal's top ten varieties by estimated vineyard area as follows:

  1. Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) R: 18,000ha (44,500 acres, 9 percent of total, trending up)
  2. Touriga Franca R: 15,000ha (7.5, strongly up)
  3. Castel?o R: 13,000ha (6.5, strongly down)
  4. Fernao Pires W: 13,000ha (6.5, down)
  5. Touriga Nacional R: 12,000ha (6, strongly up)
  6. Trincadeira R: 11,000ha (5.5, down)
  7. Baga R: 7,000ha (3.5, down)
  8. Siria (Roupeiro) W: 7,000ha (3.5, strongly down)
  9. Arinto (Pederna) W: 6,000ha (3, strongly up)
  10. Syrah R: 6,000ha (3, strongly up)

The diversity of varieties is shown by the 45.7 percent share of "Other varieties' (91,000 of 199,000ha total, according to the OIV). 

Growing conditions and wine regions

Portugal's temperate, predominantly maritime climate has a great deal to offer winemakers. The country's portfolio of terroirs is not as broad as that of, say, France or Italy, but there is significant variation nonetheless between its mountains, river valleys, sandy littoral plains and limestone-rich coastal hills.

The high levels of rainfall that blow in from the western Atlantic are a boon to those seeking high yields from their vineyards. However these showers bring a significantly increased risk of fungal problems in all but the best-ventilated sites.

Provided the risk of disease can be effectively managed, producers in coastal regions such as Lisboa (formerly Estremadura) and the Setubal Peninsula have little problem generating prolific yields. Quality can be achieved in these fertile environments only by limiting quantity through careful canopy management and judicious green harvesting.

Sheltered, inland wine regions, such as Transmontano and Douro, are typically better equipped for the production of quality wines. Their drier climate and alluvial soils stress vines, forcing them to dig deep, strong root systems.

Portuguese wine history

One might argue that Portugal's place in the wine world has centered more around its cork production than its wine, but this depends largely on which period of history one chooses. In the 18th century, when the supply of French wines to England and Scotland was threatened by revolution and war, Portugal's vineyards proved more than capable of filling the void.

It was only in the 20th century, when international demand for Portuguese wines had dwindled to almost nothing, that Portugal rose to dominate world cork production. In the 21st century, the Portuguese cork industry is struggling (due to the ever-growing popularity of plastic corks and metal screwcaps), but the nation's wines are once again on the rise, led by dry reds from the Douro and D?o.

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Most Popular Portuguese Wine

Based on search frequency, updated monthly
Wine Name
Grape
Popularity
Score
Avg Price
Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port, Portugal Port Blend Red 119th 95 $114
Dow's Vintage Port, Portugal Port Blend Red 217th 95 $114
W & J Graham's Vintage Port, Portugal Port Blend Red 236th 95 $114
Fonseca Vintage Port, Portugal Port Blend Red 300th 95 $110
Quinta do Noval Vintage Port, Portugal Port Blend Red 426th 94 $110
Niepoort Vintage Port, Portugal Port Blend Red 446th 94 $109
Warre's Vintage Port, Portugal Port Blend Red 504th 94 $102
Casa Ferreirinha 'Barca Velha', Douro, Portugal Tinta Roriz - Tinto Cao - Touriga 552nd 92 $663
Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage Port, Portugal Port Blend Red 641st 97 $1,193
Quinta do Vale Meao Tinto, Douro, Portugal Portuguese Red Blend 707th 94 $132
Kopke Colheita Port, Portugal Port Blend Red 747th 93 $120
Cockburn's Vintage Port, Portugal Port Blend Red 954th 94 $85
Taylor Fladgate Very Old Single Harvest Port, Portugal Port Blend Red 1,053rd 94 $293
Cartuxa Pera Manca Tinto, Alentejo, Portugal Portuguese Red Blend 1,204th 91 $479
Mateus The Original Rose, Portugal Rare Rose Blend 1,234th 86 $8
Herdade da Maroteira Cem Reis Reserva Syrah, Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal Syrah 1,254th 89 $96
Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Port, Portugal Port Blend Red 1,279th 89 $22
Taylor Fladgate Quinta de Vargellas Vintage Port, Portugal Port Blend Red 1,303rd 93 $67
Croft Vintage Port, Portugal Port Blend Red 1,344th 93 $89
Quinta do Vesuvio Single Quinta Vintage Port, Portugal Port Blend Red 1,357th 94 $85
P+S Prats & Symington Chryseia, Douro, Portugal Touriga Franca - Touriga Nacional 1,380th 93 $72
Niepoort Colheita Port, Portugal Port Blend Red 1,531st 92 $137
W & J Graham's Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Port, Portugal Port Blend Red 1,571st 92 $57
Sandeman Vintage Port, Portugal Port Blend Red 1,612th 93 $123
Aluado Alicante Bouschet, Lisboa, Portugal Alicante Bouschet 1,637th 88 $14
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To see how Wine-Searcher uses average pricing and professional wine critic scores on this page, please see Average Wine Prices and Wine Scores. To find out about popularity, please see Wine Ranks.
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