Portuguese wines are today unavoidable in the globalizing ‘world of wines’, being present among the other ‘wines of the world’.
Anyone who travels like me, carrying Portuguese wines in their luggage, realizes that a lot has changed in the last 20 years. Finding a Portuguese wine on the other side of the planet is no longer like finding a needle in a haystack. Indeed, a lot has changed ... but there is still a lot to do.
In order for Portuguese wines to achieve a really solid presence in the international market, it would be important to be accompanied by our wonderful cuisine. That would be an unbeatable pair! But for now, we are still an admirable surprise, especially with regard to the quality / price ratio.
The origin of Portuguese wines is believed to be the Tartessos, which would have cultivated the vine in this territory in the years 2000 BC. After that, the Phoenicians came in the 10th century BC, but it was the Greeks around the 7th century BC who settled in Iberian Peninsula and developing the art of wine production.
The story goes that Ulysses cheered with wine when he established Ulisseia, the name he gave to the city of Lisbon, according to the legend. Advancing in history, then came the Celts, who merged with the Iberian people, giving rise to the Lusitanos (Celtiberos). The Celts bring varieties of vines that they already cultivated.
Since then, viticulture has been modernized and improved. It happened during Romanization and then during the barbarian invasions and also during the Arab invasions. Vine culture and wine production were never abandoned.
When our first king Afonso Henriques finally conquered Portugal from the Arabs, the doors to religious orders - such as that of Cister, based on Salzedas and S. João de Tarouca - opened, which gave a huge advance to viticulture and wine production. From the time to the present day, there are records in the world history of the quality and uniqueness of Portuguese wines.
How to choose Portuguese wines? When there is a lot of choice, the task gets more complicated ... unless you know what you like well. In Portugal we have a wealth of styles and origins that are impressive, especially when compared to our small area with that of other wine producing countries.
Here we find wines for all tastes. If you like fresh, fruity and light whites, look for wines from the coastal areas. If you prefer medium-bodied whites, minerals and good acidity, venture out into the mountain or plateau regions.
If you want more full-bodied whites with a good volume of mouth, go to low-lying plains or areas of warm temperate climate. And in reds the rule is the same: colder zones, lighter reds, warmer zones, heavier reds.
But don't forget that in this world of wine too, the rules are always being broken!
To compare the characteristics of Portuguese wines with those of the rest of the world, we must understand that we are a country in southern Europe and that this leaves a mark on our wines.
We are a country planted by the sea, which greatly temper the southern character of our country. And it is these great areas that characterize Portuguese wines, which - not wanting to make the mistake of generalizing! - we can say that they are wines of good ripeness, with good expression of fruit and alcoholic grades that are mostly generous.
The Atlantic Ocean, the mountains and the plateaus are of use to help us balance the heat of Southern Europe.
The types of Portuguese wines are the expression of the 33 DOC - Denominations of Controlled Origin - and 8 IG - Geographical Indications - that exist in our small Portugal.
This means that we have wines of basically all types, limited by the influence of the latitude in which we find ourselves and influenced by the proximity of the coldest ocean of all, excluding the polar oceans.
Where to buy Portuguese wines? I would say that buying directly from the producer is always the best option, because today we have an easier life. We find most of the national wines for sale online.
But opting for the specialized wine shop closest to you is also a smart choice, because on site they can advise you and explain the characteristics of the wine you are buying.
Most important of all, is that you continue to be interested in Portuguese wines and to challenge yourself, choosing regions and types of wine that you will only know if you appreciate them after tasting. Start your discovery and be surprised. Cheers!