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Portuguese Wine Grape Vocabulary

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Welcome to part one of Catavino’s Portuguese wine vocabulary. I started this quite awhile ago, but delayed publishing the article until it was perfect. I also wanted it searchable and a little more ordered, delaying it even further. But the time has come to finally present the first part of the Portuguese Grape Varietals. Below is the first installment in Portuguese pronunciation for wine terms: Grapes! I have tried to cover most grapes found in Portugal from the quirky to the common place. The voice is someone native to Lisbon, Portugal, a friend of a friend, who was happy to offer the correct pronunciation of the grapes. I also know there are probably a few “accent” typos due to the heavy use of accents in the Portuguese language, so if you find one, please let me know and I’ll get it fixed. I want to say I do have Regions, Wine terms, and styles also in the works, though I’m not sure when I’ll get to them.

Till soon, Ryan Opaz

  • Alfrocheiro – Grape used in the Alentejo, Bairrada, Ribatejo, and Dão to add color to their wines.
  • Alvarinho – Portuguese name for Albarino of Spain. Found in Vinho Verde.
  • Aragonéz – Synonym for Tempranillo, used mainly in the Alentejo.
  • Arinto – This grape produces high acid white wine, found in the wines of the Ribatejo, also found in Vinho Verde under the name – Padernã
  • Assario Branco – Thought to be Spain’s famous Palomino grape of Sherry fame. Grown mainly in the Dão region
  • Avesso – White grape used in Vinho Verde wines, also known as Jaén Blanco
  • Azal – Grape found in both a Tinto and a Branco version, used mainly to bring acidity up in Vinho Verde’s
  • Baga Trincadeira – The main grape of the Barriada region of Portugal. Also grown in the Dão and Ribatejo regions. Known for its high acidity and tannins, it can produce wines capable of aging well.
  • Barcelo – This grape produces white wines that are fairly robust, fruity with a hint of lemon. The rosé ranges in color and are fresh and fruity. Sparkling wines are produced in white and rosé and range from “Brut” to “Medium Dry”.
  • Bastardo – A grape used in the production of Port wine, prized for its high sugar levels. It is also being experimented with on a small scale to make table wines.
  • Boal – Name given to many different Portuguese grapes. On the island of Madeira it goes by Bual and is used in the wines of that region.
  • Borrado das Moscas – In the Dão region, this white grape is known as Bical. It has good acidity and is used in both table and sparkling wines. Less appealing is the wine’s literal meaning, “Fly droppings”.
  • Branco – White-Vinho Branco=White wine
  • Cerceal – This grape is also known as Sercial when found in Madeira. It produces the heavy whites of the Dão. Due to high acidity it too has a less then appealing nickname, “Esgana Cão” or “dog strangler”.
  • Espadeiro – This red grape found in the Vinho Verde region along with areas of the Riaxs Biaxas in Spain. It tends to have high production levels with low sugar levels.
  • Fernão Pires – A white grape variety found in the Ribatejo, where it can produce nice oak aged and botrytized wines. Also known as Maria Gomes where it is found widely planted in the Bairrada region.
  • Loureiro – Some say laurel scented, this white grape can be found of both sides of the northern border of Spain and Portugal.
  • Malvasia – Widely used name for a variety of grapes grown throughout Europe. In Spain, it can be found in Buçaco and Colares
  • Moreto – Undistinguished red grape mainly planted in the Alentejo.
  • Mortágua – Also known as Castelao Frances, it is widely planted throughout Portugal and goes by myriad aliases. Versatile red grape that can produce interesting wines with a trademark gamy character.
  • Moscatel de Setúbal – Portuguese name for Muscat. Used mainly for the sweet wines of Setubal though can produce nice dry versions. Very fragrant and can be found with skin color of gold to rose, to black. Very versatile and grown widely throughout the world.
  • Mourisco Tinto – One of the lesser port wine grape varieties, known for making palish tart table wines when left alone.
  • Paderná – See Arinto
  • Periquita – Portuguese word for Parakeet, this is a synonym for the grape Mortágua
  • Ramisco – Red grape variety from the Colares region where due to sandy soils it does not need to be grafted to prevent Phylloxera damage.
  • Rosado – A rosé wine
  • Rufete – Early ripening red grape vine used in port production. In Spain this vine is making some interesting wines in near Salamanca.
  • Séco – Dry as in Vinho Séco = Dry Wine
  • Tinta Amarela – Red grape varietal used in Port wine production, though vines are also found in the Dão.
  • Tinta Roriz – One of the many Portuguese names for the Spanish grape Tempranillo.
  • Tinto – Red when Talking about Vinho Tinto=Red Wine
  • Tinto Barroca – Strong and resilient port grape that does well in the Duoro and can withstand if not flourish in drought like conditions.
  • Tinto Cão – One of the top 5 port grapes producing spicy light colored juice.
  • Touriga Francesa – One of the top 5 port grapes juice is notable for it’s perfume like nature.
  • Touriga Nacional – The number one port grape it’s vines produce small berries and have relatively low yields. The juice from this vine is rich, dense and concentrated.
  • Trajadura – White grape that adds body and alcohol to the wines of Vinho Verde.
  • Verde – Green as in Vinho Verde-Green wine
  • Verdelho – White grape grown on the Island of Madeira and a component in those wines. May be relative of Gouveio found in the Douro region.
  • Verdelho Tinto – Dark skin version of Verdelho
  • Vinhos Verde – Wine from the north of Portugal meaning “green wine” that for the most part is white with a small amount of red wine that is consumed locally. It is mainly yellow in color but some have a suggestion of slight green. They classify as a semi-sparkling wine and have a slightly biting or prickling quality and a refreshing twang. The vines are kept clear of the ground by being draped on trees or specially constructed trellises. These wines have a lower alcohol content. The appellation region of Vinho Verde is from south of Porto up to the Spanish boarder.
  • Viosinho – Crisp white wine producing grape grown in the Douro and Trás-de-Montes regions.

This would not have been possible without the help of these two wonderful books:

Jancis Robinson's Guide to Wine Grapes

Jancis Robinson’s Guide to Wine Grapes

The Oxford Companion to Wine

The Oxford Companion to Wine

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  • beau

    Great concept Ryan. I've always been fascinated by language. This post ties linguistics and wine together quite nicely. Cheers, beau

  • beau

    Great concept Ryan. I’ve always been fascinated by language. This post ties linguistics and wine together quite nicely. Cheers,
    beau

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  • George L.

    There is some good information here, however I would like to ask, why must there be a reference to Spain in almost every description? I thought the title was “Portuguese Grapes”, the title for this should really be “Spanish grapes that are grown in Portugal”…

  • http://www.catavino.net Ryan Opaz

    Sorry George I only see one place where this is not appropriate, the Vinho Verde, needs to be changed, just noticed I attributed it to Spain not Portugal in the first line. Otherwise, most people know grapes like Tempranillo, so saying that Arogonez is the grape Tempranillo helps to give context. You do have a point though, Portugal often plays second fiddle to Spain. Something we hope to not help propagate. Thanks for the comments

  • John

    Jaen is the same as the red grape, Mencia… not Avesso, which is white.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/ryan7968 ryan opaz

      You are correct, and I now found an error in or slight mistake in Jancis Robinson Guide to Wine Grapes. She mentions that Jaén Blanco is Avesso, and on the Avesso page references Jaén!

      Will make the change above! Thanks for catching that