If you’ve never tried Portuguese wines before, you’re in for a treat and some surprises. Wine tasting is a popular thing to do in Lisbon, and there are several wineries close to the city, so you don’t have to go far to do a tour and tasting in a unique setting.
To display how much I care about you, dear reader, I’ve been slowly visiting wineries in the different wine regions around Lisbon. There are modern, traditional, family-run, and historic wine estates, and some of them make wines that are one of a kind.
Colares wines were tasted in Sintra.
Let’s start with one of the more interesting wines from Portugal. Colares wine is different because the grapes grow in sandy soil near Sintra on the coast. The ungrafted Ramisco grape rootstock is put in the ground, and the vines that grow from it care for their first two years. After that, they are covered with about 2 meters of sand to keep growing.
Because of how they grew, the vines were safe from the phylloxera bug, which killed most of Europe’s grapevines in the late 1800s. This made them some of the oldest rootstock in Portugal.
Colares has two main wineries you can visit, and most Sintra tours that take you to a winery take you to Adega Regional de Colares. A tasting of Colares wines is part of this private full-day tour of Sintra and the surrounding area. I chose to go to Adega Viva Gomes partly because the building is coated in azulejos and partly because it seemed smaller and had more personality.
Torres Vedras, Adega Mae Winery
The Adega Me winery differs greatly from the old wines and buildings in Sintra. It’s in a beautiful, modern building in the middle of Lisbon’s vegetable garden, the green farmlands south of Torres Vedras. I mean “mother” in Portuguese, so when Ricardo and Bernardo Alves opened the most recent winery in Portugal, an addition to the family’s other food-related business owners (cod and coffee), they named it after their mother.
I had accidentally tried their best wine, Dory, before I went there. The name sounds like my friend’s name, Dori, who walked the Way of St. James with me. Either she or one of her other friends bought a bottle for fun.
The fishing boat represents the mineral notes in the wine, especially the white. The manager, Diogo Lourenco, said that it also stands for the ideas of challenge, impact, freshness, and liveliness, as well as the fact that it is close to the ocean, which affects the local climate.
Quinta do Piloto, Palmela
There are a few wineries near Palmela, but since I took the bus south from Lisbon, I wanted to visit one close enough to the town to walk there. Quinta do Piloto was a great choice. The winery tour started with a shot of aguardiente (brandy) blended with Moscatel wine and served in a tin mug in the crushing room.
Ana then took us through the vineyards and told us about the history of the family-run Quinta before taking us back inside to show us where the magic happens. Some of the equipment is new, but the 25,500-liter concrete tanks have been in use since they were put in place in the 1940s.
Ana could explain how they use natural fermentation because she could see them from the upper platform. Back on the ground floor, the colorful embroidered flags leaning against many of the tanks caught my eye. They are called Adaifa flags, and every year, the workers’ wives make new ones to go with the staple for the past grape truck of the year.
Quinta da Bacalhôa, Azeitão
Near Setubal, the village of Azeito is also in the Moscatel wine region, and it is home to two of the most important people in the wine business. Many tours of this area and the nearby Arrábida Natural Park include a stop at the José Maria da Fonseca winery in the center of the village. This winery has been making wine for hundreds of years.
On this Lisbon Private Wine Tour, you can go to the Quinta da Bacalhoa palace and taste delicious wine. You can also learn about Setubal, Palmela, and Sesimbra. I chose to mix my wine tasting with some art and a visit to the Quinta da Bacalhôa palace, which was built in the 15th century. The tour starts with a walk through an amazing collection of modern sculptures and African art. Then, the heady smell of Moscatel wine aging in oak barrels hits you as you walk past stacks of barrels.
Quinta do Gradil, Montejunto
Gradil does Pombal, who was in charge of rebuilding Lisbon in the 18th century, was put in charge of the cement tanks at Quinta do the Marquês. Aside from its history, this place is unique because of its on-site restaurant and unique wine-related activities. We drove a short distance from the winery to a windmill in the Montejunto mountains to taste wine during my visit.
The 2014 white Sauvignon Blanc and Arinto blend was my favorite wine, and I was happy to find it in a supermarket in Coimbra. In another happy coincidence, I discovered that the Mulha Velha red wine I’ve had more than once is also from Quinta do Gradil.
Manzwines, Cheleiros, Mafra
Don’t be placed off by the fact that the name sounds masculine. The Manz family is fairly new to the Lisbon wine scene. They moved to the village of Cheleiros close to Mafra in 2005 and made their first wine in 2008. The size of their wine-making facilities, which are in what used to be the village primary school, shows that Manzwine is all about quality over quantity.
They make 150,000 bottles annually and sell them to restaurants with Michelin stars and duty-free shops. The family was careful to keep the village’s history and artifacts when they set up their small winery. The Roman bridge is part of their logo, and they used old wine-making tools and equipment they found to make a small wine museum above one‘s shop.