Known for pristine beaches, mouthwatering seafood, and insanely accessible lodging prices, it’s no surprise that Portugal has become one of western Europe’s top travel destinations. However, few consider indulging in the country’s rich viticultural scene. From crisp, salty whites to sticky sweet dessert wines, Portugal’s wine-producing scene is actually one of the most historical and diverse on the planet. (Did you know that Portugal actually created an appellation system centuries before France did?) Looking to make your Portuguese getaway a bit more wine-soaked, but not sure where to start? Check out our guide on how to drink your way through each of Portugal’s 14 wine regions, here.
Signature Grapes: Alvarinho (Albarino), Loureiro, Trajadura, and Arinto
Minho is home to Portugal’s white wine claim to fame: Vinho Verde. Here, local varieties are bottled and vinified with a slight spritz, which lead to some of the most fun, refreshing, and affordable wines on the market. (Bonus point: these wines tend to have slightly lower ABVs than most still wines, so feel free to sip that extra glass at lunch guilt-free) Vinho Verde is also made in a rosé version, known as Rosado Vinho Verde. Best of all, Minho’s capital city, Braga, is perfect to visit at any time of the year, as temperatures rarely fall below the 40 degree mark. Hit the city’s famed Braga Cathedral, stroll through Peneda-Gerês National Park, and save some energy to hike up the 17-flight stairway at Bom Jesus do Monte complex—with a bottle of spritzy wine in your backpack as a reward, of course.
Signature Grapes: Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, & Boal Branco
Although Transmontano is not one of Portugal’s more popular wine-producing regions, the Trás-os-Montes VR wines are certainly worth discovering. Trasmontano is Portugal’s most northeastern wine-producing regions and is best known for its full-bodied, flavor-packed reds However, before the big reds, Transmontano was first known for its semi-sweet and slightly sparkling rosado wines—rosé fans and lovers of bubbles, this one’s for you! Simply grab a quaint hotel in the province’s main city, Braganca, and get to sipping—and don’t miss out on a visit to the city’s namesake castle, citadel, and center of contemporary art.
Signature Grapes: Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa, Touriga Nacional, Malvasia Fina
Known for full-bodied still reds, crisp whites, and some of the most coveted bottles of fortified wine in the world, the Douro Valley is undoubtedly Portugal’s most diverse wine-producing region. The region’s steep, terraced hillsides are so jaw-dropping, they’ve actually been named a UNESCO world heritage site. The Douro’s famed ‘Port’ wines are made in a variety of styles, as well as in a variety of colors—yes, rosé and white Port are a thing too, the latter of which is often used in the city of Porto’s classic aperitif cocktail, White Port & Tonic. When heading out to wine country, staying in the small ‘city’ of Pinhão is your best bet, however, for those looking to experience Port wine in a more urban environment, planning a weekend getaway to Porto/Vila Nova de Gaia is the best option, sandy beaches and sleepy sailboat towns included!
Terras de Cister
Signature Grapes: Malvasia Fina, Sercial, Aragonês (Tempranillo), Pinot Noir, Chardonnay
Terras de Cister is small, yet she is fierce. This tiny mountainous region was first cultivated by Cisterian monks, who also farmed the famed vineyards of France’s Burgundy region. Because of the region’s high altitudes, grapes tend to have a harder time ripening than in the neighboring Douro Valley, which is what makes this region so conducive to sparkling wine production. In addition to local varieties, international grapes such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are also being planted.
Signature Grapes: Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Bastardo, Baga, Bairrada
Love red wine in all of its many forms? Then heading to Dão is just the trip for you. Here, the focus is on reds, though because of the regions many varying altitudes and topographical features, the wines from this region range from light and peppery to big, boisterous, and full-bodied. Head to Viseu and make this city your home base, spend the mornings visiting the Viseu Cathedral and Museu Grao Vasco, then pass the rest of the afternoon tasting delicious wines. Collectors, take note: it’s been said that wines from Dão are some of the most age-worthy bottles coming out of Portugal, thanks to their solid structure and high levels of acidity.
Bairrada (Beira Atlantico)
Signature Grapes: Baga, Fernão Pires, Arinto
Easy-drinking reds, salty whites, crisp bubbles, and a riverside view… what more could you want out of your wine-soaked Portuguese adventure? Bairrada is perhaps Portugal’s most beloved up-and-coming wine region, thanks to its structured and peppery reds and delicious, easy-drinking whites/rosés. Some of the country’s top winemakers, including Dirk Niepoort, can be found vinifying wines here, which adds to the region’s allure. Stay in Coimbra, Portugal’s former capital and riverfront city, and enjoy its medieval old town, famous library, and 18th-century bell tower.
Signature Grapes: Bastardo, Trincadeira, Fernão Pires, Fonte Cal
Searching for Portugal with a chance of snow? Then heading to Beira Interior is your best bet. This region is Portugal’s most mountainous province, which makes it extremely hard to grow grapes. However, there’s no challenge too large for the Portuguese. Here, herbal-noted reds and chalky white wines are crafted from the region’s old vines, many of which are tended organically.
Signature Grapes: Arinto, Fernão Pires, Malvasia, Baga, Ramisco
Millions of tourists flock to Lisbon, Portugal’s dynamic capital city, year in and year out. However, few consider incorporating the province’s diverse and exciting wine-producing scene into their sight-seeing regimens. Most of the wines produced in Lisboa are relatively affordable and easy to find, however, for wine lovers in the know, seeking out some old school bottles of Colares is the way to go. This appellation is known for its unique sandy soils, which actually prevented the region from being devastated by phylloxera back in the late 19th century (AKA, this region is home to some of Europe’s oldest vines!) Explore the city’s steep, cobblestone side streets by foot or streetcar, take in the unbelievable amount of breathtaking blue and white tiled walls, and of course, start every meal with a glass of something local.
Signature Grapes: Castelao, Alicante Bouschet, Fernão Pires, Arinto
Formerly known as Ribatejo, Tejo is known for its plethora of fertile low-lying fields, much of which are dedicated to vines. This region produces easy-drinking table wines, ranging from crisp and quaffable whites to powerhouse reds, most of which won’t run you more than a few euros. The region is just a short drive away from the bigger city of Lisbon, so to maximize your intake of wine-producing regions, we recommend staying in the city center and making Tejo a day trip.
Signature Grapes: Aragonês, Castelao, Alicante Bouschet, Arinto
Not to be confused with Tejo, Alentejo is located in Portugal's eastern interior and is best-known for sunny days, scorching temperatures, and sappy, fruit-forward wines. Here, blends are pretty common, with popular red varieties including Aragonês (Tempranillo), Castelao, and Alicante Bouschet. Fuller-bodied expressions of Arinto and Fernão Pires are also produced here, which are a nice switch-up from the country’s more light-bodied expressions. Évora, Alentejo’s capital city, is home to an incredibly charming historic city center; explore the Roman Temple of Évora (Temple of Diana), gaze upon the city’s whitewashed homes, and be sure not to miss the the skeleton-clad Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) for a creepy yet unforgettable afternoon adventure.
Signature Grapes: Castelao, Moscatel de Setúbal
Love sweet wine? Then Setúbal is just the place for you. The region is known for its highly regarded Moscatel de Setúbal, a sticky sweet dessert wine with a history dating back to the late 1700s. Once in Setubal, simply stroll around and soak up all of the charm of this sleepy seaside town—and be sure to keep an eye out for pods of Bottlenose dolphins in the Sado Estuary! Setúbal is also just a short hour away from Lisbon, so those who prefer quaint seaside days and louder, music-filled nights, this could be just the solution for you.
Signature Grapes: Alicante Bouschet, Syrah, Moscatel
What’s better than bottles of juicy red wines and barbecues on the beach? If this sounds like your ideal getaway, then heading to Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region, is just the ticket. Known for sun, sand, and smoky red wines, Algarve is a no-brainer for those looking to maximize their time sipping by the sea (and possibly shoot some rounds of golf!) Faro, Algarve’s largest city, is the perfect place to rest your head at night, as the central coast between Lagos and Faro is chock-full of villas, happening bars, and delicious restaurants. For more outdoorsy travelers, heading to the region’s western Atlantic coast provides some of the most breathtaking hikes and seaside views, though be prepared to be a bit off the beaten path. In terms of wine, Algarve’s vineyards are mostly dedicated to varieties that can handle the heat, such as Alicante Bouschet, Syrah, and Moscatel. One thing’s for sure, no matter what type of traveler you are, this region does not disappoint.
Signature Grapes: Sercial, Verdelho, Boal, Malvasia (Malmsey)
We may be biased, but we happen to think that Madeira is one of the most underrated places in the whole world. Home to stunning beaches, jagged cliff sides, and its signature namesake wine, when it comes to drinking, relaxing, and simply soaking in the good life, Madeira is the place to be. Madeira’s rich yet often overlooked winemaking history is a huge staple in both American and British cultures (Thomas Jefferson loved the stuff), and thankfully, it’s beginning to come back on consumers’ radar. These fortified wines are produced via the Estufagem process, a technique that mimics the tropical old-school ‘aging’ process these wines used to undergo on cargo ships back in the day. And forget what you thought you’ve heard about Madeira—these wines come in all different styles, ranging from bone dry to sticky sweet. Real wine aficionados, this place has to be on your bucket list.
Signature Grapes: Arinto, Verdelho, Terrantez do Pico
And for island lovers looking for an additional off-the-beaten-path, we may have just saved the best for last. Portugal’s Azores region, particularly Pico Island, is unlike any other winegrowing region we’ve ever seen. The island’s never ending lines of stoned walls are constructed to protect its precious Verdelho vines and have just recently been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wines produced from Pico Island are salty, terroir-driven, and insanely delicious, marked by a slight volcanic smokiness due to the island’s topography. For those that can’t get enough of wines grown in basalt soils (AKA volcanic wines), Azores should definitely be your next wine destination—we recommend going soon before word gets out.