Among the Beaches, Portugal’s Wine Region Shines
Portugal's southernmost region is home to some of the world's most stunning beaches and top-notch golf courses, but among the rolling hills and beautiful vistas you'll also find an abundance of celebrated wineries. The region's temperate climate and constant sunshine create the ideal location for growing grapes, making it a world-class destination for any vinophile.
Located about 175 miles south of Lisbon and 345 miles south of Porto, the Algarve region is a favored weekend destination for those looking to soak up the sunshine, sights, and of course, great wines. The area is broken up into four distinct DOCs (areas with protected designation of origin): Lagos, Portimão, Lagoa and Tavira. And strung along the coast, you'll find over 2,000 vineyards and 30 producers in the region. The warm weather, sunny days, and sea breeze that draw in tourists happen to also be favored conditions for grape vines, producing high yields of fruit as well as dynamic flavors.
While both white and red wines are produced in Algarve, the region is best known for its reds. Siria, arinto, and malvasia fina are the grape varietals most often used in whites, while negra mole, trincadeira, and castelão are the preferred grapes for Algarve's reds. That beautiful weather also happens to keep fruit on the vine longer, making ultra-ripe fruit with high sugar content that yields sweeter wines — one of the reasons Tawny port is a favored export.
And while those in the region have been producing wine for hundreds of years, a number of producers have recently popped up, bringing a host of new wines to try.
Monte da Castalaja, best known for organic wines, harvested its first grapes in 2004.
Quinta Dos Santos, a winery and brewery in western Algarve, produced its first vintages in 2019 — a red, white, and rosé. And in 2006, Quinta Joao Clara created its first bottles of red, using syrah, touriga nacional, trincadeira, alicante bouschet, and negra mole grapes grown on their 14 hectares of vineyards. Quinta Dos Vales, one of the most popular wineries in the region, having won "Best Wine of the Algarve" seven out of the last 11 years, got their start in 2007. In addition to the vineyards, they also feature an open-air art gallery showcasing over 100 pieces among the manicured gardens.
But while there has been a recent surge in new producers popping up in the region, the area really started to gain momentum about 50 years ago, due in part to the government's expansion of infrastructure in the 1960s. With that new infrastructure came a boom in tourism, and renewed interest in Algarve's wine scene.
Cabrita Wines is a family-owned brand that comes from Quinta da Vinha and is one of the earlier modern producers of wines in the region; it crafted its first bottles with traditional Algarve grapes in 1977. In the following decades, the family started cultivating new varieties of grapes — including touriga nacional, trincadeira, aragonez, and castelão — and in 2007, they launched their new red and rosé.
Quinta De Matas-Mouros is another storied winery. Although it's only been producing since 2000, the winery is built on the site of the 12th-century Convent of Nossa Senhora do Paraíso. Much of the complex was lost by the 19th century, but the main structure still remains today and has since been restored, making it a great attraction to visit for both a great glass of wine and a history tour.
To make exploring the region a bit more manageable, there's an Algarve wine trail that takes visitors to a number of the area's best spots. From Lagos to Albufeira, the trail runs parallel to the coast, mainly highlighting the newer wineries to the scene.
So while the beautiful coastline dotted with picturesque beaches has long been the main draw for tourists heading south from Lisbon and Porto, the abundance of wineries only continues to solidify Portugal's southern coast as a world-class tourist destination.