For centuries Portugal has been known for its port wines and, of course, as the birthplace of the time-honored cork. Today those are background topics when it comes to Portugal’s unfortified wines stepping into the limelight for the world’s attention. Portugal is escaping its ‘fortified’ niche.
In the past, wines made in Portugal, other than ports, rarely had a chance to come into their own. Port producers considered the valuable grapes as worthy only to be made into luscious, sweet fortified wines. The grapes of lesser quality or those left were used for wines for local consumption.
It was in 1986, when the country joined the European Union, that Portugal’s wine industry developed a worldwide presence. This alliance was an almost assured success, as it was timed in sync with the world’s increased thirst for red wines and the local producers stressing vast improvements to the modern winemaking industry.
What makes Portuguese wines unique is that while the rest of the world planted the popular grape varieties that make cabernet sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay, Portuguese producers were focusing on nurturing native varieties that have been produced for decades.
The wines of the Douro region and young vinho verde (“green wine”) are great introductions to Portuguese wine beyond port.
- 2014 Twin Vines Vinho Verde, Portugal (about $12 retail)
- 2014 Twisted Red Douro, Portugal (about $18 retail)