In ancient times, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans brought vines to the Iberian Peninsula. Under the long Moorish rule from the 8th to the 12th century, wine growing stagnated, but did not come to a standstill despite the ban on alcohol. As in many other countries, the Cistercians had a decisive influence on viticulture, founding more than 100 monasteries in the 12th century. King Dinis (1279-1325) promoted agriculture and viticulture on such a large scale that the proceeds were used to build a merchant fleet, thus creating the basis for the rise to world power. He was therefore given the nickname "Rei lavrador" (King of the peasants). From the independence in 1385 a brisk wine trade with England developed.
The most famous and best-known wine in Portugal is undoubtedly port wine. Its great triumphal procession began when the Methuen Treaty was signed between England and Portugal in 1703. This treaty provided for large reductions in customs duties for the import of Portuguese wines. As early as 1756, the famous Prime Minister Marquês de Pombal (1699-1782) decreed exact demarcations for the Douro region. This is one of the very first areas, next to Chianti, to be controlled for its origin. A special role in the port wine trade was played by the Factory House opened in Porto in 1790, where the British factors negotiated and concluded their deals among themselves. With over 50%, Portugal is the world's largest producer of corks, about half of which comes from the province of Alentejo.
In the 19th century, mildew and phylloxera destroyed most of Portugal's vineyards. It was not until 1930 that reconstruction began. After the end of the dictatorship in 1974, the changeover from the production of cheap mass wines to quality products began. Due to the climate, the country is ideal for winegrowing, because the wine-growing northern part of Portugal has abundant rainfall and long, beautiful summers. The soils consist mainly of granite and slate. Viticulture is an extremely important economic factor in Portugal, as around 15% of the population live from it. In 2012, 6.32 million hl of wine were produced from 233,000 hectares of vineyards. White wines are produced to 30% and rosé and red wines to 70%. Among the most famous Portuguese wines are the dessert wines Madeira and Port, as well as Vinho Verde. However, the rosé wine Mateus, created in 1942 by the company Sogrape, founded in the same year, and similar products such as Lancers by the company Fonseca, with about 40% of the export volume, have long since overtaken this position.
A special feature are the countless native vines. In the "land of 500 autochthonous grape varieties", these used to be grown mostly as a mixed set. The often identical names or synonyms cause confusion, but DNA analyses are increasingly being used to clarify ancestry. It was not until the 1980s that vineyards began to be planted with pure grape varieties, mainly due to EU regulations on quality wines. Many of the predominantly indigenous grape varieties are also found in neighbouring Spain (some with other names). With one exception (Syrah), there is no international variety among the first 20 in the table. The grape variety table 2010:
|Grape variety||Colour||Synonyms or name in Portugal||Hectare|
|Tempranillo||red||Aragonez, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Santiago||16.706|
|French Quarter||red||former Touriga Francesa||11.582|
|Castelão Fritters||red||Castelão, João Santarém||11.086|
|National Touriga||red||Carabuñera, Mortagua, Touriga Fina||10.175|
|Fernão Pires||white||Maria Gomes, Molinha||9.376|
|Trincadeira Preta||red||Tinta Amarela, Trincadeira||9.246|
|Síria||white||Códega, Crato Branco, Roupeiro||7.145|
|Tinta Barroca||red||Boca de Mina, Tinta Barocca||5.939|
|Arinto||white||Arinto de Bucelas, Pedernã||4.446|
|Calls||red||Rifete, Rufeta, Tinta Pinheira||4.183|
|Baga||red||Baga de Louro, Moreto||4.108|
|Loureiro||white||Branco Redondos, Loureira, Marqués||3.469|
|Alicante Henri Bouschet||red||-||3.322|
|Trousseau Noir||red||Bastardinho, Bastardo||3.149|
|Palomino||white||Listrão, Malvasia Rei, Palomino Fino||3.033|
|Malvasia fina||white||Arinto do Dão, Assario, Boal, Gual||2.930|
|Vinhão||red||Sousão, Espadeiro Basto||2.482|
|Mencía||red||Jaen, Jaen du Dão, Loureiro Tinto||2.454|
|Alvarinho||white||Albariño, Azal Blanco||1.989|
|Tinta Carvalha||red||Preto Gordo, Tinta Carvalha du Douro||1.311|
|Rabigato||white||Preto Gordo, Tinta Carvalha du Douro||1.273|
|Antão Vaz||white||Antonio Vaz||1.252|
|Vital||white||Boal Bonifacio, Malvasia Corada||1.182|
|Alfrocheiro||red||Albarín Negro, Tinta Bastardinha||1.180|
|Trajadura||white||Treixadura (Spain), Trajadura Branca||1.171|
|Diagalves||white||Carnal, Dependura, Diego Alves||1.156|
|Azalea branco||white||Azal, Azal da Lixa, Carvalha||1.072|
|Malvasia preta||red||Moreto, Mureto, Pinheira Roxa||1.003|
|Bical||white||Bical de Bairrada, Borrado das Moscas||924|
|Rabo de Ovelha||white||Rabigato, Rabo de Ovelha de Cola Res||908|
|Moreto do Alentejo||red||Moreto, Morito||900|
|Avesso||white||Bornal, Bornão, Borracal Branco||685|
|Negra minor||red||Mollar, Saborinho, Tinta de Madeira||676|
|Côdega de Larinho||white||Côdega do Larinho||629|
In August 2009, the EU wine market regulation came into force with fundamental changes to wine designations and quality grades. There are the following new designations and quality levels (see also detailed information under quality system). The traditional terms Vinho Regional and DOC are still possible alternatively:
Vinho: wines without a specific designation of origin. This lowest quality level is mostly blends from different growing regions.
IGP or IG (Indicação Geográfica Protegida) or Vinho Regional:
A country wine with a protected geographical indication. The regulations contain certain criteria such as grape variety (85% of the grapes must come from the area) and alcohol content, but offer a relatively wide scope. There are 14 country wine areas; see the list below.
IPR (Indicacão de Proveniencia Regulamentada):
The former preliminary stage to DOC was abandoned in 2011.
DOP (Denominação de Origem Protegida) or DOC (Denominacão de origem controlada):
A quality wine with a protected designation of origin. It requires the use of grape varieties, minimum ageing periods in barrels and bottle, minimum values for alcohol content, acidity and total extract (dry extract), colour and aroma. A sensory and analytical test must be carried out before marketing. There are about 30 quality wine areas; see the list below.
Other designations: For the age, or in terms of the ageing of a wine, there are the terms Verde (green, no ageing), Maduro (old or aged in barrel), Reserva (red wines three years old, one of which is bottled, white wines one year old, six months of which is bottled), Garrafeira (like Reserva and higher alcohol content) and Velho (red wine three, white wine two years old). The degrees of sweetness indicated on the bottle label are seco = dry, meio seco = semi-dry, meio doce = semi-sweet and doce (also adamado, suave) = sweet.
The following is a list of IGP and DOP areas alphabetically by Portuguese regions (well-known wineries are listed there):
Península de Setúbal - formerly Terras do Sado (IGP)
Tejo (formerly Ribatejo)