Characterization of Portuguese wine styles

Lisbon wine region

The metropolitan region of Lisbon is rich in quality wines, produced in large quantities, which gives them an advantage regarding the sale on international markets. The vine culture in this region dates from the Middle Ages and its cultivation was closely linked to various religious orders, namely the Cistercian religious order, in Alcobaça.

The Lisbon region (Figure No. 13) is one of the largest wine regions of the country in terms of planted vineyard area and production of wine. The region doesn’t have a very sharp terrain, except for the southern region. The soils are mostly clay-limestone and clay-sandy formations and the climate, by the proximity of Atlantic Ocean, is quite temperate. In the area further to the south are located the best known Designations of Origin like Bucelas, Carcavelos and Colares.

The Lisbon region has nine Designations of Origin: Encostas de Aire, Óbidos, Alenquer, Arruda, Torres Vedras, Lourinhã, Bucelas, Carcavelos and Colares, all with a huge fine wines production capacity and in large volumes for world markets, with a good quality / price ratio.

I also highlight the Lourinhã Designation, a region with a very significant role, although unknown to many, in producing fine wines for distillation, which provide great spirits. The Lourinhã Designation of Origin is the only exclusive D.O. for the production of spirits in Portugal, and the only in the world outside France, specialized in the production of this high-alcohol drink. Worldwide there are only three Wine Spirits Designations of Origin; Lourinhã, in Portugal, and the French regions of Cognac and Armanac.

Old spirits of Lourinhã Designation of Origin are recognized for their excellent quality, representing a good opportunity to enhance the image of quality for Portugal. The grape varieties used and authorized for the production of Lourinhã Designation of Origin spirits are Cabinda, the sole red grape variety, Alvadurão, Alicante Branco, Boal Espinho, Barquinhas, Malvasia Rei and Tália, in white grape varieties; a twenty four months stage in oak barrels is required.

The grape varieties most used in this region of Lisbon are Arinto, Fernão Pires, Jampal, Vital, Malvasia, Boal and Esgana Cão, in white grape varieties, and Castelão, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Caladoc in red grape varieties.

The Bucelas Designation of Origin produces only white wines and was demarcated in 1911. Its wines, mainly developed from the Arinto grape variety, were much appreciated abroad, especially in the English court. The white Bucelas wines have a well-balanced acidity, floral aromas and are able to retain their qualities for years.

Colares is a Designation of Origin which is located in the southern part of the Lisbon region. It is very close to the sea and its vineyards are installed in calcareous soils or based on sand. The wines are primarily developed from the Ramisco vine variety, but the production of this region rarely reaches the 10 thousand bottles. Other Lisbon Designations of Origin can be important regions in international markets for presenting a vast difference in the styles of the produced wines, and could provide markets seeking lower alcohol content wines or markets that work with quality wines at an affordable price. Therefore, this region presents many options for growth and recovery.

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