Portuguese white wine doesn’t always get the credit it deserves. We love Spanish wine so much that we sometimes forget about neighbouring Portugal and the wondrous wine it has to offer. Sure, you hear about Port now and then, but what about the country’s white wines? We’ve got everything you need to know about Portuguese white wine, and why you should be drinking more of it!
Introducing Portuguese white wine
Fortified Port wine is the national speciality, sure. And yes, there’s white Port wine. These are superb wines reflecting centuries of know-how and made in a number of distinctive styles. But we’re not interested in Port today. No, what we’re talking about here is Portugal’s dry white wine, the sort of table wine that you can easily drink with dinner without falling over!
To understand these wines, let’s have a quick introduction to the key white grape varieties used in Portugal!
3 Portuguese white wine grape varieties you should know
The country is home to a great many indigenous varieties of red and white grapes. For our purposes, we’re going to focus only on three of the most important Portuguese white wine grapes. Understand these ones and you’ll be able to carry a conversation with any Portuguese wine buff!
The Arinto grape variety is relatively aromatic, and produces white wines that are fresh, high in acidity and with lots of lovely fruit flavours. The best Arinto wines are found in the Bucelas DOC region, and the grape is also used in the blend for Vinho Verde DOC wines, where, confusingly, it is referred to as “Pedernã”.
The Trajadura grape produces Portuguese white wine in the Vinho Verde region. It has a number of characteristics that make it very useful as a blending grape, primarily its medium to full-body and distinctive lemon aromas.
Better known as Albariño and found in Spain’s Rías Baixas, Portuguese Alvarinho is grown in selected parts of the Vinho Verde region, where it makes up a blending component.
Still with us? Good! You may have noticed a pattern above. Each of these grapes is featured to one extent or another in Vinho Verde wine. To bluff your way through any Portuguese wine talk, understand Vinho Verde!
Vinho Verde: The Portuguese white wine region to remember
Portuguese white wine is made in numerous styles across numerous regions. The good news is that you can get by pretty well by understanding just one: Vinho Verde.
The Vinho Verde DOC region lies in the northwest of the country, to the north of Porto. Generally speaking, the wines are blends of a number of grapes, including those discussed above. The wines are light in colour, high in refreshing acidity and low in alcohol – usually no more than 11.5%, though where a specific grape is mentioned on the label the alcohol content may rise to 14%.
One particular style is Vinho Verde Alvarinho, made exclusively from the Alvarinho grape variety. This style is usually higher in alcohol than the regional average, and has distinctive flavours of ripe tropical fruit.
If you’re thirsty to check out more Portuguese white wine, look to regions like Dão, Lisboa, Tejo and Alentejo.