In the south of Portugal, vineyard plantation lands are large areas, not mainly flat and covered with different varieties. From the Peninsula of Setúbal, covering approximately 20.000 hectares of vineyards cultivated in Alentejo, until reaching the Algarve, with its three thousand annual hours of sunshine.
In Alentejo, one can find a great variety of soils and grapes. The most traditional red strains: Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, Afrocheiro and Castelão (also called Periquita) share territory with the white ones such as Antão Vaz, Arinto and Fernão Pires and also with some import strains, with very good results in Portuguese soil, especially Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
The wines of Alentejo. red, white and rosé are usually wines full bodied, soft and quite aromatic.
It is said that the heritage of the Alentejo is based on two strains, Alicante Bouschet and Antão Vaz. The first is also known as “ink of writing”, because of the intense colour of its wines, highly appreciated by the aromas of forest fruits, cacao and vegetable notes.
The origin of the grape Antão Vaz is unknown, but the truth is that this variety is already indispensable in the great white wines of the Alentejo and is widely planted, mainly in the areas of Évora and Vidigueira.
Structured wines are the product of these grapes, with aromas of ripe tropical fruits. Although they sometimes lack some acidity they work great when mixed with Arinto (with high acidity) and Roupeiro (also known as Syria).
The wine route of the Setúbal Peninsula passes through two designations of origin; Setúbal and Palmela, the second one chosen as European Wine City in 2012 and base of the Mother House of the Wine Route, an old wine cellar transformed into an enotouristic information centre.
The great treasure of Setúbal is its Moscatel wine, aged in oak barrels for at least a year and a half.
The white strain, that grows on the slopes of the Sierra de Arrábida, and the black strain, also known as Moscatel Roxo or Gallego Roxo are responsible for the fame of generous (fortified) wine. Moscatel Roxo is less known, has a limited production and is very aromatic: actually, experts say that its flavours are much more complex than the ones offered by the Moscatel Blanco variety, also used for the production of excellent table wine.
In the 70’s, some of the producers of the French Riviera introduced strains such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc, among others.
One of them, the Casa Ermelinda Freitas, stands out for being a company created in the 1920’s and managed by women. Its wines have an excellent reputation and 160 out of the 240 hectares of vineyard plantation are occupied by the Periquita strain.
Venâncio Costa Lima is another of the wineries of reference in the production of wines in Setúbal.
The winery Quinta do Anjo is located in the region of Palmela and goes to the fourth generation dedicated to the production of Moscatel and table wine, both white and red, with an appellation of origin. This winery has won the prize for the Muscats du Monde 2011, which recognizes it as the producer of the best muscatel in the world.
Further south, there are vineyards plantations protected by the Sierra de Monchique and four denominations of controlled origin. The dry soils and climate of the Algarve allow the optimal development of traditional strains such as Castelão, Negra Mole, Arinto and Syria and other national varieties, such as the Touriga Nacional and the Verdelho.
The red wines of the Algarve have a ruby red colour in their early years that darken with age, use to give off aromas of fruit and are velvety to the palate. The whites are soft and usually show straw yellow.
Madrono and herbal spirits (fennel and star anise), as well as fruit and honey liqueurs, marry incredibly well with the gastronomy of the Algarve, that consists of several kinds of soups or a typical dessert made of almonds, figs and honey.
Here are our suggestions on good Portuguese wines you can find on Uvinum:
João Clara Branco 2015, an explosion of freshness
Pêra Grave 2013, perfect to join meat and cheeses