Did you know that the southernmost region of Portugal, besides having wonderful beaches, weather, golf courses, and landscapes, is also part of the Portuguese wine country? Even though tourism is the region’s main industry, there is a small space for wine production in the region’s economy in the far south of the country in Algarve.
The region is filled with history, being the one region in Portugal that stayed longer under Moorish control. Now, it’s known as the tourism capital of Portugal and now, to you, as a very unique wine region!
The Algarve wines are predominantly red, although some fresh white wines are produced, and made from both the Portuguese and international variety grapes. They are produced usually by co-operatives, but there are also some independent producers who are catching on.
These wines are traditionally high on alcohol volume, due to the region’s warm and maritime climate. The same climate that attracts tourists from all over the world is the one that makes these vines be more productive and have the alcohol volume it has.
So why not enjoy your vacation here, enjoy the incredible beaches and weather accompanied by a wonderful glass of Algarve wine?
History of Algarve Wine
Even though it is not so known, the history of the Algarve wine is as old as the history of Portugal itself. It dates back to the Phoenicians and Greek settlers in the region, who brought Greek wine to the region.
Later, they started to cultivate a native variety of a wild grape and this tradition stayed until the Romans came. These people decided to expand the production enormously, something that can be found, for example, on the ruins of Milreu (or Estói), which would have produced approximately 20.000 liters of wine per year!
When the Roman Empire fell, it’s believed that grape production fell immensely, but it carried on, with archaeological evidence and several texts from the Islamic period referring to the importance of grapes, raisins, and wine to the region.
After the conquest of the region by the Portuguese, grapes, and wine became once more one of the main parts of the Algarve economy.
From those days until ours, there have been many changes. Wine production has faced lots of bad times. However, in the 1940s, wine cooperatives were created. These companies played a huge role in modernizing the wine production in the region and elevated its standards.
In the 1960s, the government also started a huge expansion of infrastructure. This new infrastructure, in the Algarve region, created a boom in tourism, making the region what it is now, and this, in turn, created an interest in wine production there.
All of this created the perfect conditions for the Algarve to be recognized as a Vinho de Indicação Geográfica Protegida (I.G.P) or Protected Geographic Indication and, in the 1990s, for the creation of the 4 DOCs.
Today, there are over 2.000 vineyards and 30 producers in the region, all dedicated to making this unique wine.
Climate and Terroir in the Algarve
The Algarve wine region is separated, in its easternmost part, by just 200km from Tangiers and is right on the border with the Alentejo, being protected by the Monchique Mountains. This means that the region has a warmer climate, which is perfect for fruit production since it makes the fruit juicier and sweeter. It does the same for wine production, but this makes the wine have a higher alcoholic volume.
This is because the climate accelerates the vine growing season, which makes the grapes juicier and sweeter before they achieved their full flavor potential. The grapes juice is, thus, filled with sugar, which will eventually turn into alcohol, at the end of the season. The wine becomes high in alcohol, but low in acidity (which would be perfect to have in this type of wine), tasting kind of baked, due to the vines staying all day and night in the hot climate.
As for the soil, it’s very diverse. It’s usually sandier near the coastline, there are also clays rich in limestone and even soils rich in schist. These last ones are the best, even though they are rarer since these regions also receive rain coming from the ocean and have a higher temperature variation.
Grape and Wine Types
The Algarve region is divided into four subregions: the DOC Lagos, DOC Portimão, DOC Lagoa, and DOC Tavira, all of them with their own unique wines.
- Geographical Area: Parts of the municipalities of Aljezur, Vila do Bispo and Lagos.
- Grape Types
- Red Wines: Negra Mole, Trincadeira, and Castelão (either together or separate, with at least 70% of the vines being of these grapes), plus Alicante-Bouschet, Aragonez, Bastardo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monvedro, and Touriga Nacional.
- White Wines: Arinto, Malvasia Fina, and Síria (either together or separate, with at least 70% of the vines being of these grapes), plus Manteúdo, Moscatel Graúdo and Perrum.
- Wine Characteristics
- Red Wines: Velvety, light-bodied wines, with a fruity aroma and a low acidity. They age well, starting with a ruby color and acquiring a topaz hue.
- White Wines: With a color between the citrine and straw, these wines are very delicate and smooth, with a characteristic aftertaste of warm area wine.
- Geographical Area: Parts of the municipality of Portimão
- Grape Types
- Red Wines: Negra Mole, Trincadeira, and Castelão (either together or separate, with at least 70% of the vines being of these grapes), plus Alicante-Bouschet, Aragonez, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monvedro, Syrah and Touriga Nacional.
- White Wines: Siria (Roupeiro) and Arinto (with at least 70% of the vines being from these grapes), plus Manteúdo, Moscatel-Graúdo, Perrum and Rabo-de-Ovelha.
- Wine Characteristics: Extremely similar to the Lagos red wines, with all the same characteristics.
- Geographical Area: Parts of the municipalities of Albufeira, Lagoa, Loulé and Silves.
- Grape Types
- Red Wines: Negra Mole and Trincadeira (either together or separate, with at least 70% of the vines being of these grapes), plus Alicante-Bouschet, Aragonez, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monvedro, Castelão, Syrah, Moreto, Touriga-Franca, and Touriga Nacional.
- White Wines: Siria (Roupeiro) and Arinto (with at least 70% of the vines being from these grapes), plus Manteúdo, Moscatel-Graúdo, Perrum, Sauvignon and Rabo-de-Ovelha.
- Wine Characteristics
- Red Wines: They are velvety, warm, and fruity wines that evolve really well and can last a long time. Just like the other two DOCs, these red wines also age well, starting with a ruby color and, with time, gaining a topaz tone.
- White Wines: More of a citrine color, compared to the other wines, being robust and smooth. They have a good body and are capable of evolving really well.
- Wine Characteristics
- Geographical Area: It encompasses parts of the municipalities of Faro, Olhão, Sao rás de Alportel, Castro Marim, Tavira and Vila Real de Santo António.
- Grape Types
- Red Wines: Negra Mole, Castelão, and Trincadeira (either together or separate, with at least 70% of the vines being of these grapes) plus Alicante-Bouschet, Aragonez, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Syrah and Touriga Nacional.
- White Wines: Síria and Arinto (with at least 70% of the vines being from these grapes), plus Diagalves, Manteúdo, Moscatel-Graúdo e Tamarez.
- Wine Characteristics: Similar to the first 2 DOC wines.
Algarve Wine Suggestions: Best Algarve Wine
On the XIII Concurso de Vinhos do Algarve (13th Algarve Wines Contest), in 2021, these were some of the highest ranked wines, considered of outstanding quality:
- Dona Niza
- Paxá Negra
- Marquês dos Vales
- Quinta da Tôr
- Vida Nova
- Herdade Barranco do Vale
- Quinta da Penina
- Villa Alvor Negra
- Quinta do Rogel
2 Best Algarve Wine Tours
Try the authentic Algarve wine on this family farm! You will have access to the farm’s pool with a view to the amazing vineyards, where you can enjoy the taste of this high quality (and high in alcohol volume) wines. You can try all the different wines they produce there while making the most of your trip to the Portuguese holiday capital, in a calm, familiar, and sharing environment.
This is a full trip around Algarve in a minivan, where you will visit the countryside of the region and the ancient Moorish village of Silves. See the amazing Algarve oranges, ancient Cork trees, and of course, the vineyards, where you will be able to try the wines from the different farms you will visit, as well as the production and wooden barrel rooms to understand the whole process.
Take a look at our guide to Portuguese wine here.
⬇️Please share your favorite wines from Algarve in the comments below ⬇️