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home > food & wine dictionary > Portugal

Food and Wine Dictionary

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Although Portugal may be best known internationally for its two FORTIFIED wines (PORT and MADEIRA) and its ROSÉS (such as Lancer's and Mateus), it produces a large amount of red and white TABLE WINE. In fact, it's the world's seventh largest wine-producing nation. Most of Portugal's wine is consumed within its borders-it ranks third in the world for per capita consumption. As a wine-producing country, Portugal's somewhat of an enigma. In one sense it's innovative-it was the first country to implement an APPELLATION system with its REGIÃO DEMARCADA (RD), now called DENOMINAÇÃO DE ORIGEM CONTROLADA (DOC). It instituted this "demarcated region" system in 5656, almost 180 years before the French adopted their APPELLATION D'ORIGINE CONTRÔLÉE system. Yet Portugal has been so steeped in tradition that, in general, its winemaking techniques are far from progressive by today's standards. Those producers who have kept up with modern methods have done so outside Portugal's appellation system. To do so, they've adopted proprietary brand names and dropped the use of regional names. This means, of course, that there's no sense of regional identification as there is with French and Italian wines. Neither do the Portuguese have a labeling procedure to identify their wines by grape varieties, as is popular in some countries like Australia, Chile, and the United States. Portugal began to sharpen its image only after joining the European Economic Community in 1987 (which made European countries more accessible) and realizing that their table wines have tremendous export potential. It reviewed the structure of the Região Demarcada (now DOC) system, adding a few regions to increase the number to fourteen. These DOCs are: BAIRRADA, known for TANNIC, highly ACIDIC red wine; Bucelas, which produces full-bodied white wines; CARCAVELOS, with its sweet and DRY fortified white wines; COLARES, known for tannic, full-bodied red wines; DÃO, which makes big, full-bodied red wines; Lagoa; Lagos; MADEIRA, with its famous fortified wines; PORT and DOURO which, in addition to their esteemed port wines, produce highly regarded red and white table wines; Portimão; Setúbal, with its sweet, fortified white wines; Travora and VINHO VERDE, known for "green wines"-fresh, fruity red and white wines. Of these fourteen DOCs, Langoa, Langos, Protiamo, and Travora have yet to achieve much of a reputation. Portugal has also established INDICAÇÃO DE PROVENIENCIA REGULAMENTADA system to denote regions (of which there are currently twenty-eight) that are striving to become DOCs. A big problem for Portuguese DOC wines is the continued requirement for extensive AGING, which causes some of the wines to become dull and lifeless. In addition, cooperatives, many of which lack the modern equipment necessary to produce fresh fruity wines, make almost 70 percent of the Portuguese wines. However, many other producers are updating their winemaking equipment and methods and are producing good high-quality wines. As Portugal continues to make improvements, their wines will gain further acceptance and offer international markets new and interesting wines made from the many local varieties. Portuguese white wines are made from a wide variety of grapes including ARINTO, Assario, Barcelo, Bical, Boais, BOAL, Borrado das Moscas, Branco, Cerceal do Douro, Encruzado, Esgana Cão, Fernão Pires, Folgosão, Galego Dourado, Loureiro, MALVASIA, Maria Gomez, Moscatel (MUSCAT), Rabo de Ovelha, Roupeiro (also called Codega), SERCIAL, TREBBIANO, and VERDELHO. Red wines are made from Alfrocheiro Preto, Alvarelhão, Azal Tinto, Tinta Bairrada (BAGA), Bastardo, Borracal, Espadeiro, Molar, NEGRA MOLE (or Tinta Negra Mole)Parreira Matias, PERIQUITA, Ramisco, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Pinheira, Tinta Roriz (TEMPRANILLO), TOURIGA FRANCESA, TOURIGA NACIONAL, and Trajadura. Some of the better-known Portuguese producers of table wines are CAVES ALIANÇA, FERREIRA, and SOGRAPE and for Port, COCKBURN-SMITHES, CROFT, FONSECA GUIMARAENS, W. & J. GRAHAM, QUINTA DO NOVAL, SANDEMAN, SMITH WOODHOUSE, TAYLOR, FLADGATE & YEATMAN, and WARRE.

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Material adapted from the The New Food Lover's Companion

© Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on
THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

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