7. Visit a wine-making region and taste Portuguese wine
Portugal has always offered ideal conditions for the production of wine. It has many excellent wine-making regions, some of them world famous.
The soil characteristics and the differing patterns of humidity and sunshine of a few regions make these outstanding. They are the demarcated regions: the hot Alentejo, sub-tropical Madeira region, the rainier Minho region and the terraced vineyards in the Douro valley, from where the wine comes that is used in making port. All these wines are an expression of the soils and landscapes where the vines grow. There are other good wines, but it is these ones that are of truly international quality.
Vines cover a large swathe of land in Portugal – in this part of the world grapes have been cultivated at least since Roman times. Back then, wine was so important that it even had its own god, Bacchus. It also brought (and still brings) much joy to people’s lives. A meal with friends, accompanied by a moderate amount of wine, can truly lift the spirits.
The River Douro and its tributaries have carved deep ravines in their passage through the landscape. In these river valleys the region’s inhabitants found a way to cultivate the land by building terraces, giving the landscape its very characteristic look. On the vines on these terraces the precious grapes ripen in the sun, before being harvested to make one of the world’s great wines. This landscape, enjoyed by day trippers and passengers on passing river cruisers, is classified as UNESCO World Heritage and should be visited.
If on a trip to Portugal you are unable to visit the Douro wine region and its wineries, you should at least try to sample port wine. There are various varieties of this fortified wine: white port, which is young and fruity; tawny port, which is made from dark-skinned grapes and matures more quickly; ruby port, a wine with overtones of berries and a dark red colour, and others such as Reserve port. It can be either white or red and is made from grapes of superior quality.