Long overlooked by European trippers and wine lovers alike, the Portuguese wine scene has always punched above its weight. Roughly the size of Pennsylvania, this small country has world-class cities, sunny beaches, millennia of history and even (occasionally) snowcapped mountains. Intriguingly, it also possesses hundreds of different types of wine—few of which can be found outside Portugal.
The Portuguese quaff more wine per capita than any other people in the world, and the vast majority of the wine they drink is grown right at home. (Locals know they’ve got a true national treasure!) If you’re a wine lover in search of flavors not found anywhere else in the world, Portugal is the perfect pick.
Portugal grows over 250 types of wine grapes, few of which are familiar to US travelers—and many of which, we’ll admit, are a bit hard to pronounce. Because the varietals differ so much from region to region, we’ve grouped the breadth of Portuguese wine into a few general categories.
Even if you’re not a sweet wine fanatic, we encourage you to try at least one port wine while you’re here. This fortified wine is what Portugal is best known for, and the country produces the world’s finest. (Read our full article on port wine here!) If you enjoy a stronger or sweeter drink, order your port wine straight up with dessert or coffee. Prefer something lighter? Do as the locals do, and order a porto tonico (port and tonic) as an aperitivo. You can find excellent port wine anywhere, but the country’s best hails from Porto and the Douro Valley.
Undoubtedly Portugal’s best-known white, Vinho Verde is an easy-to-drink, crisp and affordable wine that hails from the northern Minho region. Consider looking beyond the one Portuguese wine you can find back home, though; we recommend the light, mineral-forward Douro Branco from the Douro Valley and the fuller-bodied Branco Alentejo from the Alentejo region.
Red wine is Portugal’s powerhouse. Many of the country’s wine regions produce as much as 80 percent red wine. As the entire country has a fairly warm climate, look for a pleasant acidity in nearly all red Portuguese wines. The Alentejo region’s complex, fruity Tinto Alentejo and Alentejano varietals make for fine choices, while the Dão and Douro Valley regions are home to the intriguingly spice-forward Dão Alfrocheiro, Dão Jaen and Tinto Douro.