Tejo.jpgDOC Do Tejo occupies almost the same large area as VR Tejo, on either side of the River Tagus (Tejo in Portuguese) as it flows gently along in a south-westerly direction towards its estuary at Lisbon. Until recently the DOC was called Ribatejo and the "vinho regional Ribatejano".

Willowy, watery meadows, flat, green farmland cut through by a wide, stately river – these are the classic images of the Tejo region.  And indeed the region encompasses much of the course of the River Tagus (Tejo in Portuguese) as it flows down from the centre of Portugal into its gaping estuary, by Lisbon.  But away from the river, the Tejo region rises into drier, hillier country, clad in olive groves and orchards, as well as vines.


New vine plantings in the Tejo region have been concentrated in these higher, drier areas in recent years, as priorities have shifted from quantity to quality. The two upland areas are the Charneca and the Bairro. The Charneca lies to the south-east of the river, bordering on the Alentejo, and is hotter and drier than the rest of the Tejo region. Soils here are sandy, production per vine is low (a plus for quality) and grapes ripen easily and early. To the north and east of the river, the uplands are known as the Bairro, where plains alternate with hills and ultimately reach up into the foothills of the mountain ranges of the Serra de Aire and Serra dos Candeeiros, by the border with the Lisboa region. Soils in the Bairro are mainly clay and limestone, with a patch of schist up near the charming little mediaeval town of Tomar.

Some of the Tejo region’s vines still grow in the Leziria, the fertile, alluvial plains where water is never far below the surface and the climate is moderated by the river, in grey spate or flood in winter, mottled with sandbanks in summer. It takes great commitment to produce fine wines in these conditions: conscientious pruning, trimming of exuberant foliage and snipping off excess bunches before they have time to develop. Many grape-growers deliver their crops to co-operatives. Much of the produce is gentle, easy-drinking red, rosé and fruity, often aromatic white for everyday quaffing. Some grape farmers have switched to other crops - there’s a ready market for the melons, strawberries, tomatoes, cereals, rice, vegetables and fruit that also grows with great ease in the riverlands.

There’s pasture for livestock, too – studs of Lusitano horses, bull-rearing for bull-running and bull-fighting of the less terminal, Portuguese kind, and in the south by the estuary a wetland nature reserve.

At the region’s heart, the city of Santarém, once a strategic fortress town on a plateau beside the river, is now a lively agricultural centre. And you’ll be there in just an hour from Lisbon, glass in hand.