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Portugal’s Wine Demarcation

As a result of our recent trip to Portugal, we figured the best way to start off the month is by offering a basic road map to Portuguese wine. We have given you several articles in the past on the grape varietals, the Portuguese wine label and some specific wineries, but as a result of this trip, we are interested in describing the Portuguese wine demarcation in layman’s terms.

Portugal’s wine demarcation is laid out in a similar manner as the Spanish system, divided by quality wines, regional wines and table wines. Put side by side, both country’s wine demarcations look like this:

Quality Wines:

  • Spain: 70 quality wine regions
  • Portugal: 29 quality wine regions

Regional Wines:

  • Spain: approximately 8 wine regions
  • Portugal: 13 wine regions

Table Wines

  • For all wines that don’t fall into either of the two categories above are listed as a Table Wine in both Spain and Portugal.

One can safely say that both Spain’s and Portugal’s wine demarcation system are generally the same. The one difference being the way in which we relate to them. When we shop for wines in Spain, we can assume that a demarcated Quality Wine (example: DO Rioja) will be the best way to search for a good wine. This is why Catavino has spent so much time doing profiles on each of the 67 Spanish Quality Wine Demarcations (or DO), and not on Spain’s Regional Wine Demarcations. In Portugal, we have recently learned that most people talk about their wines in relation to the Portuguese Regional Wine Demarcation. Therefore, we feel that for the month of August, we will do our best to break down each of the 11 Portuguese Wine Regions by Tasting Notes, Bodega Profiles, Regional Profiles and Grape Profiles. Although I doubt we will be able to cover nearly as much as we would ideally like to, we will do our level-headed best to give you a solid base in understanding each region.

What Makes a Portuguese Regional Wine Demarcation?

  1. Wines that carry a geographic indication can sometimes be produced in DOC regions, but fail to adhere to one or more rules in its production
  2. Regional wine can have up to 15% of wine originating from other regions
  3. Regional wine can shorten the maturation period
  4. Regional wine can use grape varieties and types of bottles that aren’t permitted in DOC

***DOC in Portugal can be generally be equated to DO in Spain. Spain does have a DOC designation for wines of the “highest” quality (only applied to two regions in Spain), but is not the same definition for Portugal.***

Portuguese Regional Wine Demarcations
To start with, let’s look at some basic facts about each of the 11 Regional Wine Demarcations in Portugal. I have generally started in the north, headed south, and finally, off the continent to the two island chains. All regions have their essential information listed, such as varietals and location, and when possible, additional information such as hectares vines has been added.

Vinho Verde

Location: north west of the country, coinciding with the region called Entre Douro e Minho (which is not a wine region). Bordered by the river Minho at north and by the Atlantic Ocean at west, the region has many hydrographic resources. The interior is made up of mountain ranges, the highest of which is the 1373 metre high Peneda.
Subregions: Monção, Lima, Basto, Cávado, Ave, Amarante, Baião, Sousa and Paiva
Hectares of Vines: 70,000
Production: 836.000 Hectoliters (15% of Portugal’s wine production)
White:Trajadura, Alvarinho, Avesso, Azal Branco, Batoca, Loureiro, Pederna
Red: Azal tinto, Borraçal, Brancelho, Espadeiro, Padeiro de Basto, Pedral, Rabo de Ovelha and Vinhão
Soil: The region’s soils are mainly shallow granite. They naturally have high acidity and low level of phosphorus, resulting in a relatively low fertility; however, the construction of terraces and the use of natural fertilizers have made them soils more fertile.
Climate: Influenced by sea breezes from the Atlantic Ocean, temperatures are mild throughout the year and the precipitation is high.

Douro

Location: Northeast of Portugal, Douro is surrounded by the Marão and Montemuro mountCatavino › Edit Post — WordPressain ranges.
Subregions: Baixo Corgo, Cima Corgo and Douro Superior
Hectares of Vines: 40,000 hectares
White: Malvasia Fina, Malvasia Corada, Malvasia Parda, Gouveio (or) Verdelho, Rabigato, Viosinho, Arinto, Branco sem nome, Donzelinho Branco, Fernao Pires, Rabo de Ovelha, Boal, Cerceal, Dona Branca, Esgana Cao, Samarrinho and Moscatel Galego
Red: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Brasileira, Touriga Francesa, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta da Barca, Tinta Francisca, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Carvalha, Donzelinho Tinto, Mourisco Tinto, Aragonez (known in Douro as Tinta Roriz), Tinto Cão, Trincadeira, Souzao, Cornifesto, Malvasia Preta, Periquita, Bastardo, Rufete
Soil: steep slopes containing greywacke/schist. Although difficult to work with, this soil is great for the vine’s longevity and allows the production of color and sugar concentrated musts.

Trás-os-Montes

Location:Just beyond the Marão and Alvão mountain ranges and North of the river Douro.
Subregions: Chaves, Valpaços and Planalto Mirandês
White: Sã­ria, Fernão Pires, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato and Viosinho
Red: Trincadeira, Bastardo, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca
Soil: Steep granite soil

Beiras

Location: between Beira Baixa and Beira Alta, where it borders with Spain, Bieras comprises three DOs – Beira Interior, Tã¡vora-Varosa and Lafãues
Subregions: Beira Litoral, Beira Alta and Terras de Sico
White: Sã­ria, Malvasia Fina, Arinto, Rabo de Ovelha, Malvasia Fina, Cerceal, Gouveio and Chardonnay
Red: (Tinta Roriz, Bastardo, Marufo, Rufete Touriga Nacional, Amaral, Jaen, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Barroca and Pinot Noir.
Soil: mountainous relief with granite and schist soils

Lisboa – (formally known as Estremadura)

Location: northwest of Lisbon, occupying an area of approximately 40 km
Subregions: Colares, Carcavelos and Bucelas, Alenquer, Arruda, Torres Vedras, Lourinhã and Óbidos and Encostas d’Aire
Hectares of Vines: about 31,000
Production in Hectoliters: about 1,124,000
White: Arinto, Fernão Pires, Seara-Nova, Vital, Baga, Castelão, Malvasia Fina and Chardonnay
Red: Castelão, Aragonez (Tinta Roriz), Touriga Nacional, Tinta Miúda,Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Franca, Cabernet Sauvignon, Ramisco and Syrah
Soil: limestone soils or sand

Dão

Location: within the Beira Alta region and just east of Bairrada, it is in the northern center portion of Portugal
Subregions: Besteiros, Silgueiros, Castendo, Terras de Senhorim, Terras de Azurara, Alva and Serra da Estrela
Hectares of Vines: 20,000 hectares planted up to 400 to 700 meters
Production in Hectoliters: 31,000
White: Encruzado, Bical, Cerial, Malvasia Fina and Verdelho
Red: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Alfrocheiro, Jaen, Aragonez and Rufete
Soil: low depth schist (in the southern area) or granite soils

Bairrada

Location: situated between the Atlantic coast and the mountains just South of Porto
Subregions: none
Hectares of Vines: about 10,000
Production in Hectoliters: about 370,000
White: Arinto, Bical, Cerila, Rabo de Ovelha and Fernão Pires (known in Bairrada as Maria Gomes) and Chardonnay
Red: Baga, Camarate, Castelao, Bastardo, Jaen, Alfrocheiro Preto, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira Preta, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Rufete
Soil: Limestone clay or sandy soils

Ribatejo

Location: Just north of Lisbon, situated in the flat valley of the River Tagus
Subregions: Almeirim, Cartaxo, Chamusca, Coruche, Santarãm and Tomar
Hectares of Vines: 22,300
Production in Hectoliters: Approxmately 800,000
White: Fernão Pires, Arinto, Tália, Trincadeira das Pratas, Vital and Chardonnay
Red: Trincadeira, Castelão, Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot
Soils: vary according to their proximity to the sea ranging from marshlands to poorer limestone and clay soils

Península de Setúbal

Labeled: Terras do Sado
Location: just south of Lisbon, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the rivers Tejo and Sado
Subregions: comprises two DOs – Palmela and Setúbal
Hectares of Vines: about 10,000
Production in Hectoliters: approximately 800,000
Grape Regulation: 67% of the Palmela DOC must be Castelão
White:Fernão Pires, Arinto, Chardonnay and, of course, Moscatel de Setúbal
Red: Castelão, Alfrocheiro, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, Aragonez or Touriga Franca, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah
Soils: Soils range from poor and sandy to clay or limestone soils depending on the proximity of the coast.

Alentejo

Location: Southeastern Portugal occupying 1/3 of the country’s surface area
Subregions: Borba, Redondo, Portalegre, Vidigueira, Granja, Reguengos, Loura and Ãvora
Hectares of Vines: approximately 13,500
Production in Hectoliters: about 600,000
White: Roupeiro, Antão Vaz, Chardonnay, Rabo de Ovelha and Arinto
Red: Trincadeira, Aragonez, Castelão, Periquita, Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Alicante Bouschet
Soils: heterogeneous soils of clay, granite, limestone or schist

Algarve

Label: Vinho Regional do Algarve
Location: Very southern tip of Portugal
Subregions: consisting of four DOs – Lagos, Lagoa, Portimão and Tavira
Hectares of vines: Number fallen dramatically as a result of commercial development
Production in Hectoliters: about 20,000
White: Arinto and Siria
Red: Castelão, Negra Mole and Syrah
Soil: sandy

Madeira

Location: 1,000 km fromt he Portuguese mainland
Subregions: none
Hectares of Vines: 450
Red: Tinta Mole is the most planted grape variety in the region, followed by Sercial, Boal, Malvasia and Verdelho.
White: Malvasia grape is the most famous grape for the production of Madeira’s fortified wine, but other common varietals for table wine include Sercial, Boal and Verdelho
Soil: Volcanic soils

The Azores

Location: in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (how is that for specific)
Subregions: 3 IPR Appelations – Picos, Graciosa and Biscoitos
White: Verdelho dos Acores, Arinto, Terantez, Boal and Fernão Pires (almost all used for fortified wines)
Red: Tinta Mole
Soils: Volcanic

If you ever have any regions that would you like us to explore further, never hesitate to let us know!!

Cheers,
Gabriella Opaz

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