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Oct 4, 2022

This week’s show is short but extremely valuable! We tell you about one of the best value regions in the wine world: Lisboa, the area around Lisbon in Portugal.


Although it has extensive hills and regional variation in climate, the real action is less in the smaller DOCs (Denominacão de Origem Controlada) and more within the larger Lisboa IPR (Indicação de Proveniência Regulamentada or Protected Designation of Origin). Using the freedom of the larger IPR, winemakers are making spectacular blends of native and international grapes for prices that seem too good to be true.


The city of Lisbon. Photo: Pexels


The pressure is off to feel like you have to age these wines, spend a lot of money, or save these bottles for a special occasion. For less than US$10 you can often get a lovely bottle of red or white that drinks above its price point and is great for weeknight drinking. 


Here are the show notes:

We give an overview of the Lisboa Region

  • Location: It’s the wine region around the capital of Portugal, Lisbon. It extends 150 km/93 miles up the coast, following the Serra de Montejunto, which go north from Lisbon, and divide Lisboa in half. Wines near the Atlantic side in the west are influenced by strong winds, mists, and weather. On the other side of the hills, the climate is warmer and the ripening more predictable (the wines are often better!)

  • One of Portugal’s most prolific regions (there are many co-ops here), until recently it was called Estremadura and was relatively unknown until it changed the name of the IPR to Lisboa, making it easier to recognize on the shelf

  • Wine has been made in the region since the Phoenicians and regions around Lisbon became famed in England over the centuries but have lost much of their cachet

Map: Wines of Lisboa 


  • Lisboa is a large, hilly, varied region with two main soil types: clay-limestone and clay-sand
  • Due to the mountains and Atlantic influence, there are hundreds of microclimates so wines come in many styles
  • The climate is either marked by strong Atlantic influence on the coast with high winds and fall rains OR by a Mediterranean climate, when the vines are protected by the Montejunto


Grapes: More than 30 grape varieties are used, the majority for white wine production. Almost all are blends. The main grapes include:

  • Whites: Arinto, Fernão Pires, Malvasia, Seara-Nova, Vital with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and other international whites. They tend to favor the Arinto grape and can have richness but with balanced acidity to go well with seafood.
  • Reds: Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Castelão, Tinta Miúda (Graciano), Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and other international reds. Reds are known to be quite fruity but with balanced acidity and tannin and no to low oak treatment

Arinto grape. Photo: Wines of Portugal 


Subregions: There are nine DOCS within a short drive of the capital city

  • South, very close to Lisbon: Bucelas, Colares and Carcavelos
  • Center: Alenquer, Arruda, Lourinhã, Óbidos, Torres Vedras
  • North: Encostas d'Aire


Photo: Courtesy of MC Ice

Here is a short summary of the DOCs:

Bucelas: “the prince of Portuguese wine” this is the best of Lisboa’s regions for white wine and as such, it’s delimited only for whites. Arinto dominates and is likely native to here. The wines are like citrus and they have high acidity with salinity, minerality and sparkling Bucelas is also made successfully in the region. This wine was famed during the Age of Exploration, cited by Shakespeare in Henry VI, and a favorite of the royal family in England under King George III


Colares: Very close to Atlantic, northwest of Lisbon, there are only166 acres/67 ha left to this DOC. The area gained fame because it was one of the only places in Europe never touched by phylloxera -- its loose sandy soils allowed ungrafted Ramisco vines to thrive on coastal sand, even while everything else perished. The sandy soils have clay underneath to hold the grapes in the ground. The Malvasia Fina grape makes aromatic whites, and the famed red is the flavorful, tannic Ramisco with Castelão


Photo: Sands of Colares, (c) Wines of Portugal


Carcavelos: A small area of just 47 acres/19 ha, Carcavelos is west of Lisbon and the area is pretty much gone because of urban sprawl, although some producers are reviving the fortified sweet wine of Galego Dourado, Ratinho, Castelão and Arinto. The wine can be vintage or non-vintage, white or red  


Center of the Lisboa IPR:

Alenquer: The most esteemed of the sub-regions with Bucelas, Alenquer is an inland region on the southeast side of the Serra de Montejunto. The mountains shield Alenquer from cold, Atlantic winds. The warmer climate ensures good ripening of red grapes, although aromatic whites and rosé are also made in Alenquer. The wines are blends of the main grapes (mentioned above)




Óbidos: Located near the Peniche peninsula, west of the Candeeiros mountains, and an hour north of Lisbon, this very windy and cold area is close to the coast and makes top sparkling wines. Cold, wet winds, and high humidity seep in through breaks in the mountains, making viticulture a challenge. The moisture promotes vigor, so it is very hard to make quality dry wine here, although some producers are trying to make red.  



Arruda: Behind hills, protected from storms, Arruda makes red and whites (mainly blends) from indigenous and international grapes. The reds are better known than the whites.



Torres Vedras: A bulk wine region of red and white grapes. Most of the wines are designated Vinho de Mesa even though it is a DOC



Lourinhã: Windy and cold, the grapes don’t ripen so this area is demarcated for Aguardente or Brandy. The sauce is made from the Tália varietal, which is Ugni Blanc (also used to make Cognac and Armagnac)


Encostas d’Aire: On limestone slopes and hills in the western Candeiros and Aire Mountiains, this DOC makes full, fruity reds, and acidic but ripe whites from traditional grapes. It’s the largest DOC in Lisboa.


Lisbon, Photo: Pixabay

Bonus: MC Ice was just there so he shares some advice on food and wine pairing! 


Lisbon is a great city to visit and it’s easy to get to the wine regions. Better yet, it’s SO affordable that traveling there nightly through your glass is 100% attainable!



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