Viognier in the Algarve

Who would have said five or six years ago that today we would have great quality white wines right here in the Algarve? We are currently experiencing a small revolution in terms of Algarve wines and have finally reached the stage in which any restaurant that takes itself remotely seriously has at least a couple of regional wines on its wine list. Algarve wines are even being found in some of Lisbon’s most renowned restaurants and wine cellars.
It is becoming clear that the region has some of the best conditions in the country for viniculture, and if we continue to grow at the same pace we have this past decade, Algarve wines should soon receive national and international recognition.
The climate is obviously more favourable to the cultivation of red wine grapes. However, if good white wine can be produced in the sizzling plains of the Alentejo, then we surely have better conditions here with the Atlantic breezes.
Regional producers have had a good deal of success with both national and foreign white wine grapes, but if there is one white variety that deserves to be highlighted from the Algarve success stories it is, without a doubt, Viognier.
Its presence in Portugal is relatively recent. One of the first producers to introduce it to our country was José Bento dos Santos at his Quinta do Monte de Oiro property in the Ribatejo. There he planted a small patch in the mid 90s to be mixed with a red Syrah variety, an essential ingredient for his project to create a great red wine in the Côte Roti style. His experiment went so well that a few years later he increased production of this variety and he now produces some of the country’s best Viognier whites.
Viognier is the official white variety of the Rhône region, producing wines with body and structure, highly praised for their complexity and minerality. Here in the Algarve it produces some of the region’s finest whites, amongst them Grace Viognier from Quinta dos Vales in Estombar, winner of a gold medal and named the best white of the Algarve in last year’s Fatacil wine contest.
Also worth mentioning is Quinta do Francês in Odelouca, where two whites “Odelouca” and “Quinta do Francês” are produced exclusively with Viognier since 2013. Other Algarve producers have also had success with the variety, especially worth of note is Cliff Richard’s winery Adega do Cantor.
Keep an eye out for them in good restaurants, or better yet, why not visit one of the region’s wine cellars?