Wines from Portugal

„A vida é breve, mas cabe nela muito mais do que somos capazes de viver.“
Jose de Sousa Saramago

Love wines but you’re trying to find your way around the wine lists?

Visiting a winery,  an “adega”, for some tasting or going to the wine shop for that special present?

What’s the difference between a DOP and an IGP bottle of wine?  And is the Colheta Seleccionada better than Grande Reserva?

Portuguese wine classifications and harvest indication are anything but… a piece of cake. True, Portugal is not on top of the list, among the top Wine Regions of The World we can find

  • 1 France. While France and Italy compete for the top wine production region of the world they are also reducing wine production every year. …
  • 2 Italy. …
  • 3 Spain. …
  • 4 United States. …
  • 5 Argentina. …
  • 6 Australia. …
  • 8 South Africa. …
  • 9 Chile,  ect…

Wine (like food in some countries) is a regional product, so let’s start with DOC: the acronym means that the wine has passed the chemical analysis and the test of sensory evaluation of the regional wine commission and was granted the Designation of Controlled Origin.  In other words, the wine you’re about to sip has been made from the grape varieties specific to the region, the winemaking techniques are typical for that region and alcohol levels are in line with regional standards.

man and woman holding wine glasses
Courtesy of Pixels

How many wine regions are there in Portugal?  Twelve, from the green and wet Minho in the north with one DOC wine, the mellow, lightly sparkling Vinho Verde (delicious with Polvo à Lagareiro and Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato), to the dry and hot Algarve in the south offering 4 DOC wines Lagos, Portimão, Lagoa, Tavira (excellent Portas da Luz, Tinto 2016 with my lasagne al tonno).  That means that to this time you have 24 DOC wines in Portugal to choose from.

The second designation you may read on labels is “Vinho Regional” to be granted this title the rules of the regional commission are less restrictive and though the winemaking techniques are typical, the grapes used may come from a different place or from abroad.


Finally “Vinho” means that the bottle contains uncertified table wine that was not submitted to the tests of the regional wine commission.

What else do I need to know? Regional testing panels award the Grande Reserva title to DOC wines that stand out for their organoleptic properties, such as the finest mouth feel, appearance, bouquet and aroma, while the ageing and refining process grant an alcohol content 1% higher than the minimum threshold set for wines made from the same grapes.

The Reserva title is reserved to wines aged for a shorter period so they reach an alcohol content 0.5% higher than the regular wines made from the same grapes.

The standards of the Colheta Seleccionada (Selected harvest) are similar to the Grande Reserva and the title is more a marketing term, while a Colheta Tardia (Late harvest) is usually an indication of a sweet dessert wine.

Anything else ask your wineshop expert! Hoje vamos falar com Nuno, na “Loja das Tradições” em Santarém.


What did Romans say about wine? “Vinum animi speculum”.

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