Americans turn their attention to three of Portugal’s under-the-radar wine regions

Jun 16, 2018

Off the beaten path vineyards in Bairrada, Dão and Algarve are poised to turn heads this summer as tourists flock to the country

No country is hotter than Portugal right now, with visitors clamoring to explore its vibrant culture and show-stopping vineyards. But beyond the few regions that have put Portugal back in the spotlight, there’s much more to discover within this abundant country, from the new showstoppers of DOC Bairrada, to the hidden treasures of DOC Dão, to the sunny sippers of the Algarve.

With 14 winemaking regions and over 250 indigenous varieties, Portugal offers a unique and vast wine world waiting to be explored:

1. DOC Bairrada: Atlantic showstoppers

The mild, rainy northern coast of Portugal sandwiches vineyards between pristine beaches and low hills, where cool Atlantic influences produce wines with searing acidity. These are attention-getting wines, particularly the well-structured, long-lived reds made from the Baga grape. Once thought of as austere and harsh, Baga is now used to produce complex, aromatic, tannic wines, and even some sparkling reds as well. In fact, most of Portugal’s sparkling wine, much of which is made in the traditional method, is produced here, as are fresh, well-balanced white blends made from grapes like Arinto, Cercial, and Maria Gomes. Bairrada’s array of wines is already starting to catch international attention, with even more potential ahead.

2. DOC Dão: The essence of elegance

In north-central Portugal, just east of Bairrada, lies the DOC Dão, where tens of thousands of grape-growers have held vineyard land for generations. An idealistically warm, sunny, dry climate, combined with vineyards planted on mountain slopes and acid-boosting, granitic soils creates the signature freshness, balance, and elegance of Dão wines. Touriga Nacional-based reds and Encruzado-based whites combine intensity and aromatics with minerality and texture, unfolding with more nuance and complexity over time. The Dão is a region just coming into its own, rewarding those who catch on now.

3. The Algarve: Sunshine in a glass

Portugal’s southern coast evokes visions of gorgeous beaches and jeweled sea, but a remarkable winegrowing landscape lives slightly inland. Though the Algarve is the country’s southernmost region, it is quite temperate and not nearly as hot as nearby Alentejo, moderated by ocean influence and protected by small, northerly mountains. Portuguese local varieties, like Trincadeira and Castelão, are planted in the Algarve, lending well to round, rich reds ripened fully in abundant sunshine. Soft, easy-drinking whites and rosés abound as well, recalling the feeling of sipping seaside.

These three lesser-known wine regions just scratch the surface of the remarkable journey that Portugal’s wine landscape offers. Uncover the wines of Bairrada, the Dão, and the Algarve, and encounter the world of difference that forms the essence of Portuguese wine.



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