For a small country, Portugal has plenty of different grape varieties – at least 200. During the 2,000 years or so that wine has been produced here, people have had lots of time to introduce grapes from different regions. In addition, we have a wide range of growing conditions from the cold mountains in the north to the hot coastal region of the Algarve.
There are five types of terroir (environmental factors) sun, soil, climate, air temperature and wind, which can affect the characteristic taste and flavour of the wines. Over the last 15 years, Portuguese wine has improved tremendously in terms of quality. Before then, farmers took their grapes or wine to the local co-operative where it was blended, bottled and sold on their behalf. Then the producers started doing it for themselves. A big boost for Portuguese wine in terms of recognition came in 2011. It was the vintage of the century, with perfect growing conditions and no rot or fungus. That year put Portugal firmly on the map.
I believe that our best reds are produced in central Portugal in the Dão region. The specific climate here in Serra da Estrela creates a riper fruit. This produces a smooth velvety wine that is both lower in alcohol and with a purity of fruit flavour. My favourite wine from this region is Druída, and I also like MOB lote 3. For me, the best whites come from the coastal areas in the north of Portugal, where it’s colder. The sea breezes and the abundance of rain give freshness to the taste. A good example is Quinta do Regueiro, Alvarinho grape variety. Vinho Verde, so called not because the grapes are green or young but because of the terroir, is the region where the grapes are grown and is known for its herbs, rain and rivers. You find here a variety of lesser-known grapes, but with enormous potential, such as Avesso and Loureiro, which you can taste in Muros Antigos and Casa de Santa Eulália, respectively. An up-and-coming region is the Bairrada on the North West coast. This is outstanding for sparkling wines. The soil is the same as that in the Champagne region in France. It is low in nutrients and has high chalk content. Try Kompassus Vintage Rosé as an example of a delicious sparkling wine. At Four Seasons Fairways, I get great satisfaction from helping our members and guests experience some of the 90 wonderful wines that they might otherwise never think to try and we now have 20 wines available by the glass on our wine list. In addition, our use of the revolutionary Coravin™ system, which allows us to pour a glass of wine without removing the cork from the bottle, means we are now able to offer a selection of our more expensive and special wines this way.