Portugal as a Wine Region
A large proportion of this country is under vines and, although the wines they produce are not all known on export markets, the wine trade between England and Portugal has been important for eight centuries which is why Portugal is the ‘oldest ally’. The most famous Portuguese wine is port, which in fact is not drunk as much in its homeland as might be expected, having been virtually created for the British market. Madeira is the other great Portuguese fortified wine, produced on the island of the same name.
Table wines, red, white and rose, are produced throughout most of Portugal. In very general terms, it is probably true that Portuguese white wines tend to be superior in quality to many of the reds. Usually, they may be better than most of the white wines of Spain of comparable price. But plenty of good red wines are made as well and quality improves year by year. It is interesting that Portuguese table wines have always been marketed for export under their own names as a rule, so that, even when these names are difficult to pronounce for strangers, the wines have earned their popularity in their own right, and have not been even vaguely associated with other classic names.
The vinhos verdes of the north are white and redpetillant wines, never rose. In and around the Douro region, good red and some good white table wines, consumo, are made as well as port. The Dao region, just south of this, is very well known for its table wines. The wines of Bucelas, just north of Lisbon, are mainly white and are popular in Portugal, although seldom seen in the U.K. Those of Colares, on the coast west of Lisbon, are unusual because the sandy nature of the soil is resistant to Phylloxera and the vines are therefore not grafted. The wines are curious: the reds are rather earthy in flavour and rather big, though with a distinctive flavour not always easy to like. The sweet wines of Portugal, notably Grandjo, used to be very popular in Edwardian England but nowadays are rarely seen. The Moscato grape (also known as Muscatel) can make a pleasant dessert wine in many areas. The very local wines of the popular holiday regions, such as the Algarve, have not as yet succeeded in attaining more than pleasantish but ordinary quality. Some sparkling wine is also made in Portugal – the dry white wines being a good base. Brandy and some local liqueurs are also produced.