The Red Grapes of Portugal

The Red Grapes of Portugal

Discover the Portuguese varieties Castelão, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, or Tempranillo, Baga, Trincadeira, and Padeiro, as well as their growing regions!

Touriga Nacional is one of the finest red grapes, and has its home in Northern Portugal. While it is a key grape in Port production, it is also used in regular red table wines. Its grapes are thick-skinned, leading to wines with both rich color and tannins. Wines with all Touriga Nacional, or it as a primary percentage of a blend, are usually full-bodied, have high tannins and medium-high acidity, which makes them have good structure and the ability to age. On the nose and palate, the wines have notes of blueberries, violets, and plums, with a hint of mint and wet slate. A perfect pairing for a Touriga Nacional-based wine would be a steak, topped with butter and herbs or a crumble of blue cheese.

Our next grape is Castelão, which is a commonly planted grape in Portugal, thriving in the hotter climates, particularly with sandy soils. A wine produced from this grape may show aromas and flavors of red currants, strawberries, plums, dried meat, and mocha. The wine would be medium-bodied, have medium-high tannins, and medium-high acidity. The classic food pairing for this wine would be roasted octopus with potatoes, but this wine will pair with mushroom risotto, grilled chicken thighs, and pork-and-bean soup.

The primary red grape of the Douro region of Portugal is Touriga Franca. It is a grape that is usually blended with Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional in Port wines. It is known for its natural resistance to pests and diseases, making it a grape grower’s friend. Wines made from Touriga Franca are deeply colored, elegant, and have velvety tannins. Wines from Touriga Franca are medium-bodied, with medium-high tannins, and medium-high acidity. Descriptors for these wines would include blackberries, pomegranate, graphite, rose petals, and pink peppercorns. This wine is a natural pairing for beef stew, grilled or roasted red meat, or game.

Baga is the notable grape of the Bairrada, Beiras, and Dão regions of Portugal. It is a very small, yet thick-skinned grape that ripens late in the season, so it grows best in vineyards with lots of sun. It is quite vigorous and therefore requires vineyard work, to keep the amount of greenery under control. Baga wines are medium- to full-bodied, have high tannins, and high acidity. Fragrances and flavors from these wines would show blackberries, black currants, dried cherries, black plums, cocoa, tar, tobacco, and a hint of coffee. These are ageable wines, due to the tannins and acidity. Because of the high tannins, pair this wine with fatty, roasted meats, roast pork, or braised short ribs.

Another grape used in port wine, and in the production of still, unfortified wines, is Tinta Roriz, which is also called “Aragonês,” in Portugal. You may know this grape under its Spanish name, “Tempranillo.”  Wines from Tinta Roriz are medium-full-bodied, with medium-high tannins, and medium-high acidity. Cherries, dried figs, cedar, tobacco, and dill notes may be noted in wines from this grape. This wine would pair with steaks, burgers, roasted leg of lamb, or tomato-based dishes.

The grape Trincadeira, known as “Tina Amarel,” in Douro, is grown widely in Portugal, but is sensitive to rot and diseases, so it grows best in regions that are very hot with lower rainfall, like Alentejo and Tejo. Wines from Trincadeira are rich in color with bright acidity. Unlike the other grapes in Portugal, this one has softer tannins. In these wines, expect aromas and flavors of blackberries, raspberries, black plums, and pepper. With the lower tannins, these wines would pair with soft cheeses, charcuterie, pork, veal, or poultry.

Our final grape is Padeiro, which also goes by the name “Tinta Cão.” The grape is low yielding on the vine, and only ripens to sugar levels that will yield lower alcohol levels than other of the grapes from Portugal. Wines made from Padeiro are richly colored with dark berries, spice, flowers, smoked meat, and leather on the nose. On the palate, the wine exhibits more red berries and cherries. These wines will pair with lighter meats, seasoned with dry herbs.

City Vino's weekly wine tasting on Saturday October 10th, 2020 from noon to 4 pm, will feature Portuguese wines made from the grapes listed above. Join us and explore red Portugal.


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