Portugal isa country of strong wine tradition, and the excellent quality of its wines is recognised across the world, with numerous awards and distinctions won in international competitions. To fully get to know the vineyards, the wineries and taste the wines, why not stay overnight and explore the surrounding area too?
Starting in the north, the Vinho Verde Wine Route runs from the Minho to the Douro. This is a region of rural tourism, with palaces and manor houses whose vineyards are worth a visit to discover vines growing on trellises, and where you can have wine tastings and other experiences. This also the birthplace of the reputed Alvarinho, the most prized variety of vinho verde.
It is in the Alto Douro Wine Region, created in 1756, that Port wine that has always been intended for export is produced. No wonder that there is a centuries old tradition here of welcoming visitors and sharing with them the best that the region has to offer. To start with, there is the superb scenery of the Douro valley, where man built terraces to plant vines on the region’s rugged slopes. A landscape was produced that was classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, populated by farms traditionally linked to wine. It is possible to get here from Porto, where the Port Wine Lodges are, and a good way to discover the region is on board a cruise ship, visiting some of the most iconic sites linked to the production of fine wines from the Douro and Porto.
In the central region you will find the Bairrada route, with is famous sparkling wine and excellent wine tourism units, some of which owned by old Portuguese wineries. These establishments are well equipped, and take advantage of their ancient historical legacy, sometimes even including small museums.
The Alentejo is a fertile region in wine tourism units, and it is here that one can find several leading national producers and its quality is appreciated worldwide and was considered the best wine region in the world to visit in 2014 by readers of the prestigious American newspaper USA Today. The wine producing quintas (farms) and herdades (estates) lay within this landscape of vast horizons, and they are renowned for their hospitality and cuisine. You can also participate in the grape harvest and observe the different stages in the making of a wine.
On the other side of the Atlantic highlight goes to the Madeira wine that has gained fame and prestige in all four corners of the world, a real "treasure" that already in the eighteenth century was appreciated by kings, princes, generals and explorers. Amongst the more than 30 different varieties, emphasize is placed on the finest - Sercial, Boal, Verdelho and Malvasia, the latter representing sweet wine, full-bodied with an intense perfume and red colour. The vines arranged in terraces supported by stonewalls, resemble stairs, which in some parts of the island connect the sea to the mountain boasting breathtaking landscapes.
What about tasting a wine that grows on basaltic rock? It seems strange that such conditions produce such a delicious nectar, but that is what you will find in the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture in the Azores, that combining their volcanic nature and ancestral cultivation practices, classified by UNESCO in 2004 as World Heritage.
In short, Portugal offers excellent opportunities for wine tourism, often associated with rural tourism and boutique hotels in prime locations, some designed by internationally renowned architects.