Once ridiculed by those to the north for the quality of its produce, and wine in particular, the blistering conditions of Southern Portugal are now being harnessed for the production of quality wine as well as for tourism.
This is a recent development, most notable in the Setúbal and Alentejo districts, and has only come to fruition with outside investment and expertise.Read More
There is now a peculiar situation where the most modern of wineries share the region with historic establishments who still tread the grapes or rely on clay pots and underground cellars for their ideal conditions.
Setúbal, to the south of Lisbon and encroached upon by urban sprawl, produces sweet white wines from the Muscat grape but red wines are where the most progress is being made. Whether traditionally or technologically produced, they can be well-blanced and full-flavoured. The whites have got some catching up to do.
Periquita is a favoured red grape and Aragonez (known as Tinto Roriz farther north), Ramisco, Trincadeira and many others are joined by those international interlopers Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Muscat is the white grape of sweet Setúbal and Arinto, Roupeiro and Malvasia have been joined by the ever dependable Chardonnay.
Hot and dry tend to sum up Southern Portugal. Heat is a huge problem, and there are few rivers that can provide irrigation. This makes viticulture a very great challenge, but ironically it allows the cork tree to thrive and provide the means for closing the bottle.