Quick Guide to Portuguese Wine Labels

By Andrew Barrow

Portuguese wine label

Portugal land of mellow mists and rampant fruitfulness, or is that England*? Any-road-up its a land that produces a heck of a lot of wine. Delicious wine to boot, made all the more interesting by the plethora of interesting grape varieties they use many are not seen outside the country.

Portuguese wine is subject to various quality classifications, similar to the French Appellation Controlee/Vin de Pays system. Over the years these have been modified and tinkered with but now comprise four categories:

DOC - Denominaode Origen Controlada
This indicates theat the wine comes from the specified region. It is the equivalent of the French AC. Grape varieties, maximum yields and aging requirements are specified. The DOC regions are Vinho Verde, Douro, Do, Bairrada, Setbal.

IPR Indicao de Provenincia Regulamentada
This was introduced in 1990 as a intermediate quality level. All but five of the original list have since been promoted to the DOC category. Can also be labeled as VQPRD.

VR Vinho Regional
A lowly category similar to the French Vin de Pays and, as in France, covers large areas with huge quantities of wine produced. The rules allow for a more relaxed approach to grape varieties and aging. The main VR regions are Alentejo, Estramadura, Ribatejo, Algave, and Tras-os-Montes.

Vinho de Mesa
A catch-all category that takes in any wines that do not fit in with the categories above. The European Unions Table Wine rules apply here.

When in a foreign country you at least try and speak the language right? Same with wine labels — you have to try! With Portuguese, if you read the words phonetically and you won’t go far wrong.

(tilde) this denotes a nasal sound so that Do would be pronounced dow and Castelo is cas-TEL-ow

(cedilla) this changes a hard c to a sound like an s. So Indicao is pronounced in-dee-CAS-ow

(circumflex) this places emphasis on the syllable and renders the vowel sound close. So Provenincia is prov-any-EN-see-a

(acute) places the stress on the syllable and the vowel sound is more open. So Setbal is se-TOO-bal.

*It is actually England described by Keats in To Autumn: Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom-friend of the maturing sun…

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Reader Comments

I was just in Portugal for the first time a few weeks ago. The Portugese have a regional and artisan outlook on most of their food products that tends to mean high quality and good flavors. I had several vinho verdes while I was there as well as several kinds of red wine. All were good to great and matched well with the peasant, full-flavored cooking of the area.

It’s nice to see them get a little recognition for their quality products.

I believe Spanish Table http://www.Spanishtable.com carries some in their stores and website.