A nice drop of Portuguese red…

Photo by Maja Petric on Unsplash

For years we’ve enjoyed our annual holidays in Portugal and I have acquired a “taste” for the local red  wine which is not a particularly great seller in the UK. I thought that I’d write a little guide from a drinker’s viewpoint rather than that of an expert. As we’re likely to have a Labour government for many years ahead, we’re all going to need the comfort of a glass of something decent to help us get through it.

Wine production started in Portugal about 2,500 years ago although largely ceased for 500 years between the 7th and 13th centuries as a result of the moslem occupation (a lesson there, perhaps). It is the seventh largest exporter of wine worldwide by value although in the UK it is associated with the fortified wines of port and madeira and that old favourite, mateus rose, and it is not a major market for its ordinary wine. However its red wine (vinho tinto) is well worth sampling. Their appellation system (marked DOC on bottles) predates the French system by nearly two hundred years Being a coastal country with high hills, variable soils and considerable rainfall, it produces an impressive number of different grapes and types of wine. It is also good to support the economy of this country’s oldest continuous ally, with treaties in force since 1373, unmatched between any other nations worldwide.


Wine from the beautiful Douro valley dropping from the mountains into Porto was usually made into port with the addition of local brandy and the trade was dominated by British merchants. However in recent years the wine itself has established itself in its own right and is found on the supermarket shelves.

There are three sub regions, Douro Superior (inland near the Spanish border), Baixo Corgo (closest to the coast) and Cima Corgo which is the area between and which has the largest and most well regarded wineries and is considered to produce the best Douro wine.

In the shops here, Douro is usually classified either as Douro or Douro reserve which is a little more expensive. It is very full bodied with a rich flavour and a moderate to high level of tannins. It is considered to be best with game, beef and meat stews.


Bairrada is a wine region in the north of the country along the Atlantic coast and produces deep red wines with a high level of tannins.

Again it pairs best with game and red meat generally and has similarities with Douro but is considered to be slightly drier on the palate.


I have to declare this to be my personal favourite. It is thought to be the oldest wine producing region in Portugal on a plateau in an otherwise mountainous inland area. It is a wine that is a favourite in the homes of the Portuguese people themselves. It is a medium to full bodied wine (less than Douro or Bairrada) with high acidity and tannins and has a complex and delicate flavour. It is said to be ideal with grilled foods, especially lamb, but a glass on its own suits me. It has recently appeared on supermarket shelves with Morrisons and Asda but (my sole recommendation), if you’d like to sample it at an absurd price, Aldi sell a good Dao at the extremely reasonable price of £6.49 per bottle.


This wine is produced in the inland eastern part of Portugal where the cork is grown. It produces a full bodied and velvety (occasionally jammy) wine with an intense flavour.

It is usually paired with lamb, pork or casseroles.

Lisboa (Lisbon)

Wine from the Capital region is produced from a long and narrow coastal strip on the Atlantic coast. It is far less full bodied, being from a more temperate and wet climate and is extremely drinkable. It was formerly known as Estremadura but is now sold here under the Capital’s name.


This region is generally better known for its white wines being inland and to the north east of Lisbon. However it does produce some full bodied deep red wines noted for high tannins


The wines of this area on the south coast, so popular with British holidaymakers and golfers, are sub divided into four sub categories of which the most popular is Lagoa, which is not often found on the shelves of British supermarkets. Its wines are high in alcohol but low in acidity due to the year long warm climate.

One Algarve wine sometimes found here was labelled as Cliff Richard’s as he owned a villa and small vineyard and clubbed in with his immediate near neighbours to build a winery to sell their wine under his name. The winery became a prominent tourist attraction. It still operates although he sold up and moved to New York after Plod and the BBC conspired to create a fiasco costing us £2m out of our telly tax.

Cheers, all !

© Bergen 2024