We know Portugal for its luscious, sweet, fortified wines and its robust, powerful reds, however, the next big thing coming from the wine-producing powerhouse is white wine — and it is truly special!
White wine is well represented in Portugal’s north, where the cold Atlantic breeze freshens the vineyards. Still, the finest white wine in Portugal today is not what you expect; it comes from an up-and-coming wine region in Portugal’s southernmost vineyards.
The most provocative white wine in Portugal comes from the Algarve. In the hands of the talented winemakers of Quinta Dos Vales, the most awarded winery in the southern region, pristine white grapes ripen to perfection to reward your senses with fruit-forward and refreshing white wines.
Growing white grapes in the sun-drenched area is not easy; it takes great skill and knowledge. In this article, we’ll cover the work around the vineyard behind the attractive white wines of the Algarve.
Of course, a fantastic terroir plays an important role, but it’s the hand of man that harnesses Mother Nature’s gifts to produce world-class white wine grapes. Great fruit makes great wine, so how do Portuguese grape growers produce extraordinary white grapes in one of the warmest wine regions in Europe?
A Prestigious Terroir
Not even the most experienced grape grower can grow premium grapes if the conditions aren’t right, and thankfully Portugal has a diverse terroir. Grapes grown in steep, terraced vineyards and deep valleys experience different temperatures and sun exposure than grapes grown along Portugal’s northern coast blessed by sporadic rains. The country’s central flatlands and Mediterranean south are warm and dry while the northern vineyards are dominated by high altitudes, which bless the vines with considerable day-time temperature variations.
Chilly nights allow the grapes to keep the precious acidity needed to make world-class wine. This is the secret behind the prestigious wines made along the Douro River.
Portugal’s south doesn’t enjoy the same altitudes. Instead, the cold Atlantic breeze freshens the vineyards during both days and nights. Low temperatures cause wine grapes to mature slowly, developing sugar while preserving their acidity. When the time is right, expert grape growers harvest the grapes to produce balanced, refreshing wine.
With the region’s heat in check thanks to the blue Atlantic Ocean and its caressing breeze there’s still another factor to consider when making white wine in the Algarve. Grape growers must find ways to tame the blistering sun that tourists visiting the area enjoy so much.
The Work in the Vineyard
To make fruit-forward white wine, the grapes must enjoy plenty of sunshine, but not too much. Sun promotes the development of complex fruity aromas and a richer mouthfeel, but too much sun can cause overripe scents and less balanced wines.
Algarve is known for its blue skies and radiant sun, so how do winemakers protect the grapes from excessive sunlight? One way to do it is by constructing the vine’s canopy, effectively protecting the grape clusters from the sun with the vine’s own leaves. This is meticulous work, and each vine must be pruned by hand. Tended just like gardens, the finest vineyards in the Algarve create the perfect environment for growing grapes with balanced sugar, acidity and polyphenols.
Just like the climate plays a role in creating superb white wines in Algarve, so do the grape varieties selected for the task. The expertise, passion and talent of grape growers and winemakers are the last piece of the puzzle.
Selecting the right varieties
Only the right grape varieties thrive in the verdant but warm Portuguese wine region of the Algarve. Let’s explore Quinta Dos Vales’ vineyards and discover the grape varieties behind their acclaimed white wines, true gems and authentic ambassadors for Algarve’s white wine.
For instance, Castelao and Touriga Franca produce extraordinary rosé wines, when grown in vineyards that are protected by a natural amphitheatre, a significant feature in Algarve. Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier, two prestigious international varieties, feel right at home in the region’s warm vineyards as well, resulting in rich and bold wines.
The rare local varieties Síria, Malvasia Fina and Arinto, bless Quinta Dos Vales acclaimed Grace Vineyard white wine every year, one of the most exclusive in the wine-producing region. Meanwhile, other rare varietals, Arinto, Alvarinho & Antão Vaz, give life to the winery’s Dialog range, when drinking the wine you can almost hear the “conversation” between these three noble grapes.
There’s no doubt that the Algarve is the perfect stage for growing premium white wine grapes — the wine’s quality speaks for itself.
Enjoy the white wine of the Algarve
Each region of the country produces white wine, and the overall quality is exceptional. However, it is in the lesser-known regions with centuries of winemaking history where a new generation of winemakers are elevating these types of wines to unforeseen heights.
The white wines from Algarve are not only contemplative and sophisticated, but they’re also fun and easy to enjoy. Add these fruit-forward wines to your bucket list and experience the region’s sunny climate in every bottle, glass and drop of beautiful wine. The Algarve is both elegant and accessible like that; it’s difficult not to fall in love.