There are many different wine producers, wines and vine-growing areas in Portugal and these are readily available in “Bebidas” (wine & spirit shops), mini mercados and supermarkets where you can buy straight from the vineyard or local co-operative.
Rosé: There are several styles other than Mateus, which originated in the Douro region during the Second World War. Some are very refreshing and make good summer drinking when chilled. Brands like Lancers, in its’ very distinctive bottle, may be unknown in Northern Europe and further afield but do try some and enjoy some of the many wines available.
White (Vinho Branco) is mainly grown and produced in separate areas:
The North – producing amongst others, Vinho Verde, young green wine (with a little fizz) and the lesser known Porto Branco that is drunk chilled as an aperitif – varies from quite sweet to crisp.
The Centre – Dão – these whites are not as well as known in Northern Europe as the red but the vinho branco is very good – but, as always, it’s a matter of personal taste.
The Alentejo and Ribatejo – these are hotter and drier regions of Portugal that produce very different styles of wine and can vary in price from the amazingly cheap to extremely expensive, depending on the DOC and vineyard. Labels such as Falcoaria, Padre Pedro, Casal do Lago, Pera Manca, Pousio are well worth searching out but much cheaper varieties are eminently potable.
Red Wine (Vinho Tinto) Should you prefer to drink red then the choice is huge, as this is the preferred wine of the Portuguese. Ranging from young wines which make very pleasant drinking when chilled to full bodied reds like Dão, Alentejo, Bairrada, Borba, Douro and, of course Port which is a fortified wine produced only in the Douro valley. Both the trade and the critics rated the 2004 vinho tinto vintages extremely highly. Again, prices vary greatly, do not be afraid to try the house wines when eating out as they’re quite palatable but can be chilled, unless you request differently.
Dependable Alentejo red wines are Monte Velho and Marquês de Borba – if you happen to see Marquês de Borba Reserva, then you’re in for a treat as it’s only bottled in the very best years.
In early autumn you will see notices in the bars and cafés – “Há Agua Pé”. This means that they are selling Agua de Pé, the first pressing of the local grapes. In the “good old days” they really were trodden not pressed mechanically – hence literally “water of the feet”; some of our neighbours still make their wine in the traditional way from their own grapes. This red wine is not at all strong, as fermentation is far from complete.
Fortified Drinks – Leziria is close to the Beiras region and the local “aid to digestion” is “Licor de Beirão”, which is flavoured with herbs; have a glass with your after dinner coffee, as a change from cognac, even better with ice.
Another local product to try is águardente which comes in various flavours – assorted fruits, coffee and often “mel” (honey).
Port This is far too complex a subject to discuss here, I can only refer you to “the experts” and suggest you read some books, consult your local wine merchant or “Google”. Younger tawny and ruby styles can be bought here for around 5.00 euros and vintage port is considerably cheaper here in its’ homeland.
Madeira – Although not produced on the Portuguese mainland, there is a splendid choice to be had here of Madeiran vintages that are not always readily available outside Portugal.
Whatever you do try Portugal in a glass.