A very subjective guide to Portuguese wine

It is no longer a secret that Portugal produces many excellent wines. Alongside the more common wines that you find in the supermarket, there are more and more wines from small, innovative producers that are only available in wine shops (garrafeiras) and good restaurants.. Here we present some of the best wines we’ve tasted so far. We start with the wines that are easy to find. Then come wines that are hard to find, but all the more worth searching for.

Great wines you’ll find in a supermarket

White

  • Esporão Reserva Branco (Alentejo, 12€): The Esporão winery has been producing excellent wines and olive oils since the mid-1980s. More recently they switched to organic farming. This white wine is made of the Antão Vaz, Arinto and Roupeiro varieties – a typical Alentejo blend. It is one of our all-time favorites and a great companion to seafood and grilled fish. Esporão’s premium white, the Private Selection Branco, is excellent, too, but if we had to choose between the two, we’d probably stick with the Reserva.
  • Cartuxa Branco (Alentejo, 15€): A complex and elegant wine. Our first choice when eating grilled Corvina slices at Restaurante Capelo in Santa Luzia. The Cartuxa winery produces other good wines such as the Foral de Évora. It’s flagship white, the Pêra-Manca Branco, is a bit too heavy and sweet, but the red Pêra-Manca is one of Portugal’s top wines with prices well above 200€ per bottle.
  • Dona Maria Amantis Branco (Alentejo, 15€): In the beautiful town of Estremoz, Júlio Bastos produces a range of good to excellent wines under the name of “Dona Maria“. Amantis, made from the Viognier grape variety, is our favorite white, but the “normal” Dona Maria is also good.
  • Poeira Branco (Douro, 32 €): Douro whites are often very strong and full-bodied wines. Due to the Alvarinho grape, Poeira is fresher with a lot of acidity. It’s little brother, Pó de Poeira, is also good.
  • Redoma Branco (Douro, 14€): Portuguese white wines are often heavy and rich in alcohol. With “only” 12%, this Redoma is relatively light and elegant, but nevertheless complex and well-structured. A great companion to fresh oysters.
  • M.O.B. Lote 3 Branco (Dão, 9€): M.O.B. is a joint project of the Douro winemakers Jorge Moreira (Quinta do Poeira), Francisco Olazabal (Quinta do Vale Meão) and Jorge Serôdio Borges (Borges winery). It’s not as easy to find as most other wines on this list. If you can get hold of a bottle, try it! It’s our favorite Dão white.
  • Vicentino Sauvignon Blanc (Alentejo, 12€): Located on the West coast of the Alentejo, the Costa Vicentina, with its colder and more humid climate, the wines are not as heavy and sometimes more elegant than the typical Alentejo wines from Borba or Reguengos. With it’s dominant smell of green peppers, this Sauvignon Blanc is unlike anything you will have tasted outside the German-speaking part of the world. Doesn‘t pair with everything, but should work nicely with grilled sardines. Vicentino produces a range of interesting and not so common wines.

Red

  • Quinta da Bacalhôa Cabernet Sauvingnon (Setúbal, 17€): This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is the closest you can get to a Bordeaux in Portugal. If you are getting tired of the powerful and fruity wines of the Alentejo, this is your friend.
  • Quinta do Mouro Tinto (Alentejo, 30€): A lot of excellent Alentejo wines are from Estremoz. Quinta do Mouro by winemaker Miguel Louro has a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon added to the typical Alentejo blend of Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Nacional which makes it special.
  • Quinta do Crasto Red (Douro, 9€): Fresh and fruity. This is the most affordable of Quinta do Crasto’s wines. Others are equally recommended such as the excellent Quinta do Crasto Reserva Vinhas Velhas and the Crasto Superior Syrah.
  • Quinta do Crasto Vinhas Velhas (Douro, 30€): This is what Douro red wines must have tasted like decades ago. Deep, concentrated and full-bodied.
  • Meandro do Vale Meão (Douro, 11€): You can’t go wrong with this wine. A typical Douro red made mainly from the Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Tinta Roriz grape varieties with smaller amounts of Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca, and Tinto Cão. The grapes are trodden by foot in granite lagares and the varieties are vinified separately. The result is a concentrated and well-balanced wine with aromas of dark red fruit and a long finish. Meandro is the smaller sister of Quinta do Vale Meão, a truly powerful red that is one of Portugal’s top wines.
  • Vinha Grande Tinto (Douro, 10€): If you have read about Portuguese wines, you’ve probably heard of Barca Velha, the first true giant among the country’s wines. Barca Velha is only produced in exceptional years and sells at 500€ upwards. Since 1952 only 20 harvests have been released with the 2011 vintage being the youngest one. But the producer, Casa Ferreirinha, has a range of other, more affordable wines, the most interesting of which being Vinha Grande Tinto.

Inexpensive supermarket wines

Over the past decade or two, Portugal has built a reputation for good and inexpensive wines. More recently, and with a rapidly growing international demand for Portuguese wines, this has started to change. Prices have gone up, even for the most affordable wines, and producers are increasingly focusing on quality rather than quantity. This has led supermarkets like Continente and Pingo Doce to “invent” their own industrial wines whose names and labels imitate the products of traditional vineyards, but which are little more than a disguised bag-in-box wine. Sometimes they even get renowned winegrowers to produce a “special” edition that is exclusively sold in the respective supermarket. These wines use unregulated terms like “Premium”, “Signature” or “Gold Edition” in their names to simulate a higher degree of quality, which they definitely don’t have. Often these wines are advertised as bargains with up to 70 percent discount, but you can be sure that they are never worth more than the biggest discount the supermarkets are willing to give. If you want to discover the diversity of Portugal’s regions and varieties without “liquidating” half of your travel budget, here are a few recommendations.

White

  • Casa da Passarella A Descoberta branco (Dão, 6€): Dão whites are fresh and usually less fruity than the wines from Alentejo or Douro. A Descoberta by Casa da Passarella is A blend of the typical grapes of the Dão region Encruzado and Malvasia Fina plus some Verdelho.
  • Catarina (Setúbal, 5.50€): An affordable, fresh and medium-bodied white by the Bacalhôa winery in Azeitão.
  • .com (Alentejo, 4€): The Tiago Cabaço winery in Estremoz is famous for its blog wines. .com is their most affordable wine. But in our opinion the most interesting are the wines of the Vinhas Velhas (old vines) series.
  • Herdade de São Miguel Colheita Seleccionada Branco (Altentejo, 5€): Another good and affordable Alentejo white.

Red

  • Courela (Alentejo, 3.50€): Cortes de Cima winery’s most affordable red.
  • Alandra (Alentejo, 3€): Esporão winery’s most affordable red.
  • Esteva Tinto (Douro, 4.50€): From the producers of Barca Velha and Vinha Grande. Esteva is their most accessible wine with a surprisingly characteristic taste. Some love it, others hate it.
  • Lavradores de Feitoria Tinto (Douro, 4.50€): Lavradores de Feitoria are a sort of modern cooperative with interesting wines. The Branco and Tinto are their most affordable ones. If you like very dry white wines with a lot of acidity, then try their Três Bagos Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Cabriz Biológico Tinto (Dão, 6€): An organic red Dão you will find in some supermarkets. The Colheita Selecionada Tinto is similar, although without the eco-label, and easier to find.

Wonderful wines that are hard to find in supermarkets

White

  • Equinócio (Alentejo, 25€): Together with Margarida Cabaço’s Margarida Branco, this is our absolute favorite Portuguese white wine. Produced in small quantities by the Cabeças de Reguengos winery in the hills of the Serra de São Mamede near Portalegre. Made of “about 14 different varieties”, this white wine is elegant, deep, well-structured and perfectly balanced. It will be very difficult to find anywhere in the Algarve, but if you decide to stop in Estremoz on your way to or from Casas da Serra Tavira, make sure to try it in Restaurante Larau, Mercearia do Gadanha or at the new restaurant of the Casa do Gadanha Guest House.
  • Quartzo (Alentejo, 22€): If you like Equinócio, you’ll also enjoy Quartzo. Very similar in taste and structure, this wine is made from a blend of ancient grape varieties which grow at altitudes of 550 and 735 meters. Other equally interesting whites by Cabeças de Reguengos are Respiro Altitude and Respiro Cimento (in recent years it has become fashionable to add the term “cement” to the name of a wine to indicate the rediscovery of concrete tanks, see also the new Herdade dos Grous Concrete).
  • Margarida Edição Especial Branco (Alentejo, 15€): We love this wine. It’s concentrated and full-bodied. Made 100% from the Encruzado grape, it shows a complex mix of ripe fruit and resin and has an incredibly long finish. There are rumours that the current 2015 vintage could be the last one made by the great Estremoz winemaker Margarida Cabaço. Try it while you can. Just like the equally great Monte dos Cabaços Tinto which may also come to an end a few years from now.
  • Monte da Capela Curtimenta Branco (Alentejo, 11€): 50% Viognier and 50% Arinto give this wine its complexity and balance. Fresh, but not too much acidity.
  • Paço dos Infantes Antão Vaz (Alentejo, 12,50€): There are several good Alentejo whites made with 100% Antão Vaz grapes. Herdade Malhadinha Nova produces one of them. But our favorite so far is this Paço dos Infantes by Herdade de Lisboa in Vidigueira. We had the 2020 vintage. Highly recommended.

Red

  • Cem Reis Syrah (Alentejo, 55€): A BIG wine. 100% Syrah. Alcohol: 16% Vol. Hard to find and restaurant prices are often exorbitant. It’s even bigger brother Mil Reis is produced only in exceptional years and at prices of 300€ upwards is more a collector’s item than anything else. Recently, the winery Herdade da Maroteira has launched the very interesting Dez Tostões Grande Reserva Tinto, a very concentrated red made entirely from the Alicante Bouschet grape.
  • Coteis Grande Escolha (Alentejo, 13,50€): Dark, complex and concentrated. Imagine drinking a bottle of cherry jam. A very good and not so typical Alentejo red from Moura.
  • Quinta do Poço do Lobo Tinto 1991 (Bairrada, 22€): You can hardly get any closer to what a good Portuguese wine tasted like before the great modernization of the national wine sector that has occurred over the past 2 or 3 decades. Lisbon’s Garrafeira Nacional is selling several red wines from the Bairrada region that the winery, Quinta do Poço do Lobo, had stored in its cellars for decades and has only now released onto the market. Besides this red made from the Baga, Castelão Nacional and Moreto grape varieties, there is also a Cabernet Sauvignon from 1991 and 1996 that we like even more.
  • Bafarela Superior 17 Tinto (Douro, 40€): The name says it all: this Douro red has an impressive 17% of alcohol by volume. With other “17s”, the alcohol often dominates everything, stifling all other aromas, Bafarela Superior 17 is full-bodied and well balanced and has an intense aroma dominated by dark red fruits. It’s a unique experience. There used to be a Bafarela 18 produced exclusively for the Restaurants Relento and Nunes Real Marisqueira in Lisbon. While the former unfortunately had to close, the latter might still have a bottle or two in the cellar (it’s not on the wine list).
  • Herdade da Bombeira Syrah Escolha (Alentejo, 12,50€): Located in Mértola, Herdade da Bombeira is close to the Eastern Algarve. That’s probably why you can frequently find their wines in restaurants and smaller supermarkets in and around Tavira. The simple Herdade da Bombeira Tinto with its bright orange label is perfect if you are looking for a good and affordable wine. The Syrah Escolha is more elegant, full-bodied and with a good balance of fruit and tannins. Drink it when you visit the wonderful Casa de Pasto Fernanda e Campinos in Corte António Martins.

Other wines

Sparkling wine (Espumante)

  • Tiago Cabaços Espumante Bruto (Alentejo, 15€): Dry, very fresh and elegant, almost like a Champagne. Very different from the sparkling wines from the Bairrada Region which are the perfect companion to suckling pig Bairrada style. Tiago Cabaço’s Espumante is best on its own or with fresh oysters.
EN
%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close