Discovering the Wines of Portugal

Trade events can be exciting, tiring, tasty, overwhelming…but always a fabulous learning experience and a great venue for meeting talented, friendly, winemakers.  The “Wines of Portugal” trade event, held in Chicago at City Winery, was no exception. The afternoon event was well organized.  The winemakers and winery representatives were happy to answer my many questions, share varietal traits, explain their unique terroir, and of course, pour their delicious wines.


Let’s begin with a Portuguese wine vocabulary lesson- always grateful to Wikipedia!

  • Adega: Winery
  • Branco: White
  • Casta: Grape variety
  • Colheita: Vintage year
  • Doce: Sweet
  • Espumante: Sparkling wine
  • Garrafeira: A reserva red wine aged at least two years in a barrel and one year in a bottle; a white wine aged at least six months in a barrel and six months in a bottle.
  • Maduro: Mature (in opposition to verde). Mature wines are Portuguese wines produced in all regions except the ones produced in Vinho Verde region; due to this, the term “maduro” rarely appears on bottles.
  • Quinta: Vineyard
  • Reserva: Superior quality wine of a single vintage
  • Seco: Dry
  • Tinto: Red
  • Verde: Green (in opposition to maduro). Wines produced in Vinho Verde region with a distinctive method.
  • Vinho: Wine

There are about 250 varietals of grapes grown in Portugal.  These are just a few used in these delectable wines.


Alvarinho, Arinto (Cerceal), Verdelho, Antão Vaz, Roupeiro,Viosinho, Ecruzado, Fernão Pires/Maria Gomes

Tinto -Red

Touriga Nacional, Touriga France, Baga, Aragoneês, (Tinta Roriz), Alicante Bouschet, Castelão, Trincadeira (Tinta Amarela), Tinta Caiada


As with every trade event I attend, I like to begin with one type of wine and compare the different offerings. I chose to begin with the white wines. To be fair, there were 26 tables, with multiple vineyards and wines at each.  I indulged at 16 tables…not every wine, but a few at each. “Refreshing, vibrant, and memorable” are words to describe these wines! I found all the whites to be inviting and pleasant but there were a few that stood out for me personally. A few of my favorites were from José Maria da Fonseca- Domingos Soares Franco Colecçao Privada Verdelho 2014, Casa Santos Lima- Pluma 2014 which was a beautiful white blend, Luis Plato- Espumante Maria Gomes- a delicious bubbly and Vinhas Velhas 2014- another delightful blend, Fonte do Ouro Branco 2014, and Joao Portugal Ramos Wines – Tons de Duorum 2014 ablend of 5 white varietals!  Lastly, Julio Bastos’ -Dona Maria Viognier 2014 is a beautiful expression of this sensuous grape.

Moving on to the rosés- perhaps my favorite type of wine when they are produce as dry rosés…the Portuguese winemakers did not disappoint!  The Luis Pato Espumante Baga 2012 was the only sparkling rosé I tried, but fell in love at first sip! Julia Kemper makes an elegant, rich rosé- JK Elpenor 2013 from the Touriga Nacional grape…oh so good and organic ,too!

After taking a break to enjoy some of the tasty treats and drink more water, I went on my red wine journey.  Boas Quintas had a couple of tongue tantalizing, smooth, reds. Two stood out for me: Fonte do Ouro Tinto 2014 and Fonte do Ouro Encruzada. Camilo Leite was generous with his knowledge and smiles! I headed back to the Joao Ramos table were again, 2 wines became quick favorites.  Their Tons de Duorum 2013- a blend of 3 varietals, and the Duorum Reserva 2011- an amazing wine made from their old vines…superb! Herdade dos Grous was pouring their Moon Harvested 2013 wine- bio-dynamically farmed, young, yet powerful, and quite lovely. The oldest red I personally tried came from Luis Pato’s table. He is known as “The Rebel”!  His 2001 Quinta do Moinho Baga from 40+ year vines was outstanding!

One can’t discuss Portuguese wines without talking about Port!  My ultimate favorites were: Cockburn’s Special Reserve, Warre’s Warrior, Joao Ramos’ port, and Quinta Santa Eufemia’s 10 yr. White Port.

I could go on, but the post is already a bit long. Portugal is coming into a great era of dynamic, interesting, talented wine makers. I offer my salute to every producer showcased at the event.  Portugal and its vineyards are now on my “must visit wine region” list.  Bravo

About sommeliersusie

Owner of Tasteful Adventures- private in-home wines tastings Boisset Wine Living Ambassador- private and corporate wine tastings and direct to consumer sales, corporate gifting, Wine Educator, Sommelier- Level 1 Court of Master Sommelier, BASSETT Certification, French Wine Scholar, Member Guild of Sommeliers
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