Portuguese grapes varieties for red wine
Main Portuguese grapes varieties used for red wine.
In Portugal there are several types of grapes varieties used for red wine. Some create fantastic monovarietal wines or wonderful blended wines.
There are over 4,000 varieties of grapes identified and catalogued globally. Portugal ranks as the country with the second largest number of indigenous grape varieties, not found in other parts of the world.
Since it’s almost impossible to write about all the grapes varieties founded in Portugal, continental and islands, we will bring to you some of the most available grapes varieties used in our red wines.
This is one of the most commonly-planted grapes in the south of the country.
It is especially popular in the regions Tejo, Lisboa, Península de Setúbal and Alentejo, and is happiest in hot climates and dry, sandy soils.
It performs at its best in the Palmela region of the Setúbal Peninsula south of Lisbon, in old vineyards in the hot, sandy soils around Peceirão.
Castelão grapes from carefully-managed, low-yielding old vines can be made into well-structured wines with plenty of tannin and acidity, and fruit reminiscent of redcurrants, preserved plums and berries, sometimes with a hint of well-hung game.
Castelão is rarely able to shake off a rustic character. The best examples can age very well, sometimes resembling fine old Cabernet when mature.
Despite not being an indigenous Portuguese grape variety, Alicante Bouschet is so deep-rooted in Alentejo and the Setubal Peninsula collective patrimony that it is often assumed to be Portuguese. In fact it is a displaced variety, the result of conjoining the French varieties Petit Bouschet and Grenache.
It is one of the world's very few colouring grapes, able to provide concentrated, deeply coloured wines, a feature that has earned it the nickname "Writing Ink".
Alicante Bouschet's natural habitat has always been the Alentejo. Introduced here over one hundred years ago by the Reynolds family.
Its many wine attributes include structure, firmness, tannins ... and color, lots and lots of color! Alicante Bouschet is seldom bottled as a varietal wine, reinforcing its image as a rustic, structuring grape that could produce pungent and extraordinary wines.
It does wonders to a blend, adding color, vigour and volume, as so many Alentejo and the Setubal Peninsula wines will attest to.
The aromas it evokes are of forest berries, cocoa, olives and vegetal notes. Alicante Bouschet is assuredly our most Portuguese non-Portuguese grape variety.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most international of all French grape varieties, being widely grown across all five continents.
It has found a special niche and style in the Setubal Peninsula and Alentejo, one of the few Portuguese winegrowing regions where it can ripen to perfection.
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of those varieties that can be termed "enriching"; deeply colored and thick-skinned, it can spice up blends, imbuing body and consistency to well-composed, perfumed, fruity and spicy wines.
It is rarely bottled as a varietal wine in the Alentejo, but is present in small amounts to give structure in many regional Alentejo wines.
Appreciated for its versatility, resistance and correctness it yields wines of immense longevity that age with elegance and security.
Tannat is a red-wine grape whose origins lie in the Basque country, on the border between France and Spain.
Here, in the shadow of the Pyrenees Mountains, the terrain is rough and rugged, so it is only fitting that Tannat should create wines which are equally deep, dark, dry and rustic.
Since its early days in southern France, Tannat has migrated with relative ease and is now planted in Argentina, Australia, the U.S. (California, Oregon and Virginia), Brazil, Portugal and even in southern Italy's Puglia region, where it is used as a blending grape.
Tannat found a privileged terroir and climate in the Setubal Peninsula and it has produced wines of exceptional quality.
Tannat is characterized by its firm tannin structure, deep color, high alcohol and its ability to age well. The aroma profile is gently tarry and redolent of stewed red berries ("warm raspberry jam" sums this up well).
Though Syrah is a well-known French grape varietal from the Côtes du Rhône region, it has successfully been diffused to other regions of France and worldwide.
In the Setúbal Peninsula, it occupies approximately 300 hectares of vineyards. Grown in warm, poor Alentejo soil, Syrah wines come close to those from the New World.
The wines from this grape have a rich aroma, a consequence of the different terroirs, climates and winemaker knowledge.
In the Setúbal Peninsula region it has found a privileged terroir and climate, for even with the different knowledge of local winemakers, it has produced wines of exceptional quality that have won medals both nationally and internationally. If there was any doubt in this regard, it was dispelled at the 2008 Vinailes Internacionales competition in France, where a Syrah wine from the Setúbal Peninsula competed in a blind tasting of red wines from 36 countries and won the Trophée Vinailes for the best red wine.
Big robust and full-bodied wines with lots of fruit, some pepper, usually spicy, sometimes powerful and alcoholic.
Wines from early-ripening grapes are accessible when young, smooth and inviting with good cellaring potential.
Varietal Syrah wines are made but they are few in number, usually being used in small amounts in many of the Alentejo's most emblematic wines.