Wines of Portugal

The first thing you may notice about Portugal's wine is that is it cheap and really rather good value for money. It comes in the usual red, white and rosé varieties and a decent vinho da casa (house wine) can cost as little as €1.50 for 350ml in a restaurant. Under €4 buys you a bottle of the more discerning of Portugal's wines, which is unbelievably reasonable you have to agree.

In restaurants you will find that lists differentiate between branco (white) and tinto (red) wines, but also tell you whether they are maduro (mature) or vinho verde ("green" or young semi-sparkling wine). There are dozens of wine regions and so you will be utterly spoilt for choice at every meal, but if you favour deeper reds and whites without bubbles go for the maduro wines, or for great accompaniments to fish dishes try the white vinho verde wines from Manção and Melgaço, or from Ponte de Lima.

In the maduro wine category, the most famous is probably the red Dão table wine produced by cooperatives north of the Serra da Estrela, and resembling a velvety Burgundy wine in style. Reds from Reguengos in the Alentejo are also celebrated and red and white wines from Buçaco near Coimbra are worth trying too.

The main wine-growing areas in Portugal are the Dão, a triangular region between Coimbra, Guarda and Viseu near the River Dão; the Ribatejo that produces reds like Torres Vedras and whites from Chamusca; and venerable vines near Sintra that avoided phylloxera and now produce expensive reds at Colares.

The most celebrated of Portugal's rosé wines is the Mateus rosé, a semi-sparkling wine.

Some important terms to learn in relation to Portugal's wines are:

Relating to age:

Ano - year

Vinho maduro - wine matured for at least a year

Vinho verde - young wine, available in all colours, slightly sparkling

Vinho da casa - house wine

Relating to variety:

Branco - white

Tinto - red

Espumante - sparkling

Bruto - very dry

Seco - dry

Meio seco - medium dry

Doce - sweet

Relating to quality:

Regiao demarcada - officially demarcated region

Vinho regional - superior country wines, like the French vin de pays

Reserva - a good vintage

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