Port Wine & Madeira
In Portuguese: Vinho do Porto
Apart from the beaches and golf, a good reason for visiting Portugal is the alcoholic beverage called 'port', named after the city of Porto, which is located near to the wine's demarcated area of production.
Port is a fortified wine; the wine has had grape brandy added to it after a couple of days' fermentation. 80% wine 20% brandy. Visit Vila Nova de Gaia, across the River Douro from Porto, to visit one of the dozens of port wine lodges and enjoy a tour and tasting.
- Tinto (red)
- Tinto Aloirado (ruby red)
- Aloirado (tawny)
- Branco (white)
- Seco (dry)
- Doce (sweet)
- Vintage Character Port (a cheaper version of Vintage Port)
- Quinta (wine estate)
- Colheita (tawny port, cask-aged for 7 years or more)
There are several types of port:
Tinto and Tinto Aloirado are dark, sweet and the cheapest. They are made from a blend of wines of lesser quality.
Tawnies can also be blended. These get their name from the colour the wine takes on after maturing, often for many years, in mahogany casks. The longer the maturation, the lighter the colour of the port.
Branco, white port, is not so well-known outside Portugal. The dry version, "seco" makes a good aperitif.
Higher quality port includes tawny aged in casks for more than 7 years: 'colheita'; through LBV (Late Bottled Vintage) which is casked for 4-6 years; to, finally, the top quality Vintage Port, bottled within 2 years and left to mature in the bottle - rather than in the cask - for 10 years or more from a single harvest before it's ready to drink - this is made from wines of exceptionally high standard and only in certain years is it produced.
Rabelo boat, traditionally used to transport barrels of port wine on the River Douro from Alto Douro to Vila Nova de Gaia in Porto © Oporto Municipal Council's Tourism Department
Madeira wine barrels on the island of Madeira off the west coast of Portugal
In Portuguese: Vinho da Madeira
Another fortified wine comes from the Portuguese island of Madeira.
The sweet version the English used to call "malmsey". There are two other versions: the semi-sweet "verdelho" and the dry "sercial".
Offley Wine Lodge, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
Dry Red Wines of Portugal
Portugal also produces some excellent dry red wines from such indigenous grape varieties as Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca. The Alentejo region south of Lisbon is a good source of quaffable red wines.
Other Portuguese Wines
Portuguese wines include reds (tinto), whites (branco) and vinhos verde, young, lightly sparkling, mainly white wines with some reds and the occasional rosé from the Minho region around Braga.
Wine production in Portugal goes back to pre-Roman times, with the Phoenicians and Greeks both producing wine in the region. Portuguese wines were exported to England from at least the 12th century.
As an adjunct to the wine industry, cork production has a long history in Portugal and indeed Portugal is the world's number one producer of cork. Cork oaks can live to a ripe old age and are carefully tended and cut.
Read more about Portuguese wine