Dr. Grape's ultimate guide to Portuguese Wine Varieties
Everything you always wanted to know about Portuguese grape varieties, but were afraid to ask...
In Portugal, the grape varietals range is easily above the 250 native varietals, most of which are territorially linked to Portugal for hundreds of years of natural selection. Here's a list of the Portuguese Grape Varieties and their characteristics.
The Portuguese winemaking heritage is strongly rooted in the country's identity from North to South.
All the wine countries inherited a whole different universe of native grape varietals, some countries thou decide to reduce that spectrum and even import international varietals to make its wines easy to be categorized and to fit into the consumer's mass taste and demand.
In Portugal, the grape varietals range is easily above the 250 native varietals, most of which are territorially linked to Portugal for hundreds of years of natural selection.
The internationally renowned Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir, even the (nowadays) widely used Syrah, are recent additions to the Portuguese winemaking. Bellow are the most common varieties used in Portugal.
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This is a Dão grape by origin, but it has spread successfully southwards into the Alentejo, Ribatejo/Tejo and Palmela regions because of its ability to retain good acidity even in hot climates.
Alicante Bouschet also known as Alicante Henri Bouschet is a teinturier grape variety widely planted in Spain, Portugal and France, particularly in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. It has a long history in the wine world but lost ground in the late 20th Century in favor of more fashionable international varieties.
This northern grape is one of Portugal's finest and most characterful.
This is one of the most prized varieties of the Alentejo, until recently grown almost exclusively around Vidigueira.
Aragonez / Tinta Roriz
This is one of the rare grape varieties to be prized on both sides of the border. Tempranillo to the Spanish, the Portuguese call it by two different names depending on the region: Aragonez and Tinta Roriz (the latter name is used only in the Dão and Douro regions).
This is a versatile grape, grown in most of Portugal's wine regions.
Avesso is a white wine grape variety found in the vineyards of northern Portugal, particularly in Minho, where it plays a key role in the region's crisp, white Vinho Verde wines.
Azal branco is a white Portuguese wine grape planted primarily in the Minho region but with greater expansion to Amarante, Basto, Baião and Vale do Sousa sub-regions. It noted for the high acidity of its wines, and is used for white Vinho Verde Varietal Azal Branco wines can be somewhat reminiscent of Riesling.
Bairrada is the famous home of the difficult Baga grape, but it is also to be found widely elsewhere in the Beiras, including Dão.
This grape is to be found mainly in the Beiras, in the DOCs Bairrada and Dão (where, incidentally, it is sometimes called "Borrado das Moscas" or "Fly Droppings"!).
The red grape variety originates from Portugal.
The world’s most popular red wine grape is a natural cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux, France. Cabernet Sauvignon is loved for its high concentration and age worthiness.
This is one of the most commonly-planted grapes in the south of the country.
Chardonnay is the world's most famous white-wine grape and also one of the most widely planted. Although the most highly regarded expressions of the variety are those from Burgundy and California, many high-quality examples are made in Portugal, Italy, Australia, New Zealand and parts of South America.
For the moment, this grape is restricted very much to the DOC Dão, but watch this space. It is one of Portugal's absolutely top white grape varieties.
Espadeiro is a dark-skinned grape variety used in the production of dry red and rosé wines in northern Portugal's Vinho Verde region.
Fernão Pires/Maria Gomes
This is one of Portugal's most planted grapes. It grows more or less all over the country, but is particularly important in the regions of Tejo, Lisboa and Bairrada.
This native of the north-eastern part of the Beiras (the northern sector of DOC Beira Interior) has yet to escape the region.
This Douro grape is now planted right across Portugal and has recently become particularly popular in Alentejo.
Jaen shows at its best in the Dão region, and that's where most of it is grown.
Although now widely disseminated throughout the Vinho Verde region, it seems that the Loureiro grape originated in the valley of the River Lima, towards the north of the VR Minho/DOC Vinho Verde region.
This is a grape of inland northern Portugal, especially the Douro, Dão and Beira Interior; it is also planted in the Távora-Varosa and Lisboa regions.
Despite continuing to occupy a prominent area in Alentejo, the Moreto variety is in clear decline, residing in the regions of Reguengos, Redondo and, above all, Granja-Amareleja, the area where the variety is most evident, gaining a prominence unknown in the rest of the country.
Moscatel Galego Roxo
This grape began life as a natural genetic mutation of Moscatel Galego, of which there were small quantities in Península de Setúbal.
Moscatel de Setúbal
This Eastern Mediterranean grape was introduced to the Iberian Peninsula by the Romans.
Cultivated particularly in the sub-region of Basto, being also recommended in the sub-regions of Ave and Cávado
Pinot Noir grapes are one of the most ancient varieties of domesticated vitis vinifera, the vine that makes the world’s most famous wine grapes.
Its first known mention of this red wine grape spelled as Pinot (Pineau was another common spelling) in literature dates back to a Burgundian text from 1375. This famous red wine grape previously was called Morillon, Noirien and Auvernat, and there’s a written reference to “Moreillon” (spelling varied greatly in those days) that dates back to 1283.
Originally from the Douro region, Rabigato is grown throughout the Upper Douro.
Ramisco is confined to the tiny and once famous region of Colares, in the sand dunes west of Lisbon and the palaces of Sintra.
You will rarely see this grape as a single variety.
Sauvignon Blanc is a white-wine grape from western France, now successfully grown in emerging and established wine regions all over the world. While the grape may be more readily associated with the Loire Valley (for its pivotal role in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé), it is more likely to have originated from Bordeaux, where it is typically blended with Semillon.
Syrah is a dark-skinned red wine grape. Its origins have been popularly debated, but its modern viticultural home is unquestionably the northern Rhône Valley of eastern France.
Síria / Roupeiro
This land-locked grape grows in a long north-south strip over by the border with Spain.
This is one of the most commonly-planted vines in the Douro, and one of the five officially recommended varieties for port.
This is one of those Portuguese grapes that you find mostly in mixed old vineyards in the Alentejo.
This is the main grape of the island of Madeira, where it is much used in fortified wines but also in the island's table wines.
In the Dão region, this grape is a relatively recent arrival, but in the Douro it dates back to the 18th century, and is now one of the five officially recommended grapes.
This is one of the structural pillars of red Douro blends, and also one of the five officially recommended grapes for port
Few would dispute that the Touriga Nacional is Portugal's finest red grape variety, deserving a place right up at the top of the world league of grapes, along with the likes of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo.
Originally from the north of the Vinho Verde region, the Trajadura makes wines with lower acidity and higher alcoholic strength than the other Vinho Verde grapes.
Verdelho came to fame on Portugal's islands - Madeira and the Azores- as a base wine for fortified wines.
Famous for its biting acidity and dark, opaque colour, Vinhão is the most-planted grape of the Vinho Verde/Minho region.
This north-eastern grape survives for the most part scattered here and there in the old mixed white vineyards of the Douro.