Even though Portugal does not command headlines in the international wine world, many Hongkongers have had a head start in tasting wines from the southern European country. There is a ready stash of Portuguese wines in Macau and some of us remember Mateus Ros? from its heyday in the 1970s. The rest of the country has been slow to promote its wines, and the diversity of indigenous grape varieties make it still relatively unknown to most wine consumers.
This northern region is known for its white wines (including vinho verde) usually made from the alvarinho grape, with refreshing acidity, lower alcohol and often with a little spritz.
This is one of the most starkly beautiful vineyard landscapes, and is protected by the UN cultural agency Unesco. It is home to Portugal's most famous wine, port. Styles include white, pink, ruby, tawny and vintage port made from a specific year.
Port is a fortified wine made from a blend of different red varieties. Fermentation is arrested, leaving residual sugar. The wine is fortified with a neutral spirit to about 20 per cent. The area is becoming increasingly important for its dry red wine made from the port grape variety touriga nacional. These wines are inky in colour, very concentrated with firm tannins and with long ageing potential.
An island off the African coast, Madeira produces a fortified wine with an eminent history. It was loved by Thomas Jefferson and was used to toast the American Declaration of Independence in 1776. Madeira is made from a variety of grapes from sercial (dry), verdelho (medium dry), bual (medium sweet) to malmsey/malvasia (sweet). Madeira from good vintages can last more than 100 years due to the heat ageing process, known as estufagem.
The region produces predominantly red wines made from the baga grape. Wines are full bodied, with savoury notes and firm tannins. Of note are the sparkling wines.
This region has seen a great improvement in its winemaking, and proves that Portugal is capable of producing wines that are elegant and complex.
In the south this is one of the largest wine-producing regions. Known for the production of affordable, easy-drinking wines with forward fruit and softer tannins. Wines are made in an international style to compete with New World wines.