Characterization of Portuguese wine styles

Península de Setúbal wine region

Following recent archaeological excavations grape pips dating from the eighth century B.C. were found in the Setúbal Peninsula, which shows the antiquity of the vineyard culture in the region, thus dating back to a much earlier period of the formation of Portugal. It is believed that the first grapes of the region have been brought by the Phoenicians and Tartessos people on the slopes of Serra da Arrábida and the flat areas along the River Sado, encountering a mild climate and enabling the cultivation of the vine. It is one of the oldest wine regions in the world, inhabited by Romans, Arabs and Portuguese, who cultivated the vine with their own cultural techniques.

The Setúbal Peninsula is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Tagus and Sado rivers. Located on the south of Lisbon, it is essentially marked by tourism and vineyards. The region can be divided into two distinct orographic areas; the South west area, where the territory has some orographic accidents caused by the mountains of Arrábida, Rosca and São Luís, with an altitude ranging from 100 and 500 meters, and the area further to south, with long and fertile plains, given the proximity of river Sado.

The climate of the Setúbal Peninsula region (Figure No. 15) is subtropical and Mediterranean, suffering strong maritime influences, given its proximity to the coast and the river basins of the Tagus and Sado rivers. Summers are hot and dry and winters are cool and rainy. The soils of the region are in their majority clay-sandy, Franco-sandy-clayey and calcareous, with an alkalinity quite marking the produced wine style.

This region is well known for producing Moscatel de Setúbal (a Muscat wine), clearly distinct from other world Muscat. Based on the recognition of product excellence, the quality of production of other wines has been improved. The wines produced in this region are very diverse in the grape varieties used and the final cuts and are recognized for the good competitiveness of the quality / price ratio, which might be understood as a distinguishing factor for the wines of Portugal.

The Moscatel de Setúbal is a fortified wine where fermentation is halted with the addition of brandy, following an extended barrel ageing, often used in the whiskey ageing, which gives it distinctive characteristics.

The use of Muscat grape varieties dates of the creation of the region, when the Phoenicians people planted the first vines. The plantation for the first time in the region of the Moscatel-Galego-Roxo (red variety), Moscatel Graúdo and Moscatel-Galego-Branco (white varieties) dates back to this period. The production of Moscatel de Setúbal has a long production history. Since the times of the Portuguese Discoveries that this wine was transported by boat to various destinations such as Brazil, and these trips contributed to its qualitative development, giving place to Moscatéis Torna Viajem (Figure No. 16).

This is undoubtedly a region with potential for exploitation by the producers. Besides the method of addition of brandy and ageing the wine in barrels, the use of these varieties, already perfectly adapted to the Terroir, together with the production of wines that travelled the world and are recognized for their high quality, can help to affirm the region in world markets.

Despite the different varieties of the Setúbal Peninsula region, the most significant Muscat grapes are the Moscatel-Galego-Roxo (red variety), Moscatel Graúdo and Moscatel-Galego-Branco (white varieties), and the Antao Vaz, Arinto, Malvasia Fina, Fernão Pires, as white grape varieties, and Aragonês, Bastardo, Castelão (known as Periquita in this region), Trincadeira and Touriga Franca, in red varieties.
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