The wonders of Portuguese wine extend to the capital, Lisbon. This long, thin area previously known as Estremadura, produces a range of wine styles with the majority of bottles being comprised of at least one native grape. Common examples include Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Fernão Pires and Arinto.
The region extends predominately to the North but also to the West and East of the capital and produces the largest number of wines each year. From 2008 it has been classed as an IGP (Indicaciones Geográficas Protegidas) to be more in line with the rest of Europe.The area also holds the highest number of ‘Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC)’ in Portugal, nine in total. These are; Encostas de Aire, Óbidos, Lourinhã, Torres Vedras, Alenquer, Arruda, Colares, Carcavelos and Bucelas. The windy coastal areas, mainly Colares and Lourinhã can struggle to fully ripen their grapes and often have serious issues with rot. However, inland this is less of an issue and some of the DOC’s benefit from the Serra de Montejunto mountain range which shelters the vines.
Denominação de Origem Controlada within Lisboa.
DOC Encosta de Aire. This is by far the largest DOC area within Lisboa. The area surrounds the limestone massif known as the Serra de Aire. The fertile soils mean a large amount of bulk wine can be produced by cooperatives as well as some better, more complex wines. Both red and white wine is produced from a range of varieties including Arinto, Vital and Baga.
DOC Óbidos. An ideal area for sparkling wine production due to cooler and windy climates. Some more basic red and white wines are also produced however the grapes often struggle to ripen so its best to stick with fizz!
DOC Lourinhã. One of the wettest, windy and rot-prone DOC’s in the Lisboa region. Getting the grapes to ripen can be a serious issue however brilliant brandy can be produced. It is one of the few DOC’s for the production of spirits in Europe and the only one in Portugal.
DOC Torres Vedras. Although this DOC allows international varieties to be grown, including Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, the region is still typically cooler and windier than those protected by the Serra de Montejunto mountain range. The white wines produced can be both simple and refreshing due to the cooler climate.
DOC Alenquer. a particularly successful DOC for red wine production due to its warmer inland position behind the Serra de Montejunto mountains. This feature allows the grapes to reach full ripeness levels and produce more intense styles of wine. The area now permits the use of some international varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, however, the native varieties still play a major role in the region. The reds from here typically show warmer climate characteristics such as jammy flavours with hints of pepper.
The whites are also typically more full-bodied, with a rich and creamy mouthfeel, predominantly made from Arinto and Fernao Pires with increasing plantings of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc being seen.
DOC Arruda. Below Alenquer (looking at a map) lies the DOC Arruda. Again sheltered by the Serra de Montejunto mountains the grapes can fully ripen. This area permits the use of international varieties along with DOC Torres Vedras and DOC Alenquer.
DOC Colares. Often struggling to fully ripen the grapes and having serious difficulty with rot it isn’t surprising that this DOC is more famous for its phylloxera resistant sandy soils. Sand doesn’t allow the louse to spread preventing damage, as this isn’t a particularly common soil the majority of vines are now planted on American rootstocks. It is also the second oldest DOC in Portugal adding to the prestige of region. The majority of wine produced here is red and mainly from the grape Ramisco. This variety is really only grown here and doesn’t produce wines to be drunk young (adding to the issues of the region). The tannins and acidity are typically very high; however, these features do lend themselves well to bottle ageing.
DOC Carcavelos. This small area lies at the mouth of the Tejo river to the west of the capital Lisbon. Its most famous and historical wine is fortified and small amounts of still red wine are made from the local grape variety Ramisco. Production is decreasing as the land is much more profitable for hotels and holiday apartments, a problem with many coastal areas.
DOC Bucelas. Another small prestigious area lying to the west of the Tejo river and again somewhat sheltered by the mountain range. The majority of production is white wine with a small proportion of sparkling wine made. The wines are often classic in style with good complexity. The key grape variety is Arinto which must be used in all DOC Bucelas wines. This grape is grown in many Portuguese regions and is favoured due to its refreshing, high acidity and potential to age.
See the Grape Guide for more information on each variety.
Key native varieties:
White: Arinto, Fernão Pires, Malvasia, and Vital.
Red: Aragonez, Castelão, Baga, Tinta Miúda (Graciano), Ramisco, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Trincaderia.
Key International varieties:
White: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
Red: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah