Fall in Portugal brings a buzz of activity to the 20 designated wine regions across the country, from picking and processing the grapes to celebrating the harvest with food, song and traditional festivals.
During September and October, visitors can now witness these ancient rituals up close, by taking part in the harvest itself, touring through the many vineyards, crushing the grapes if they desire, or even lodging within the walls of a grand wine estate. Often the estate will have a restaurant and offer wine tasting dinners, complete with a view of the vineyards from whence the grapes came.
Madeira and Port wines may be the oldest and best-known wines from Portugal, but they are certainly not alone. The country of Portugal has steadily invested in its wine making industry for the past 20 years, by adding modern equipment, careful cultivation and improving on techniques that reach back to before Roman times. Nearly 8 percent of Portugal’s landscape is given over to vineyards today and the result is a wide variety of quality wines, each with their own personality.
Two of Portugal’s wine-producing regions are designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. They are the Douro Valley Wine Region and the Pico Island Wine Region in the Azores Islands.
From the plains of the Alentejo towards the south, to the northern valleys of the rivers Dao and Douro, each harvest and harvest celebration has a unique, local flavor.
The vineyards sit among stunning landscapes and are easily toured by car or on bicycle. In the Minho region, the grapes used for the vinho verde wines grow on trellises. The vineyards of the Douro region, the oldest demarcated region in the world and birthplace of Port wine, run in a series of terraces. During the harvest here, throughout the month of September, men can be seen walking the vineyards carrying baskets of grapes, while the women are helping and singing traditional songs as they work or celebrate.
In Centro de Portugal region, the wine routes run through small towns, each brimming with history. Along the River Tejo, the Ribatejo wine region is full of fertile fields that are irrigated when the river here bursts its banks
In the Madeira Islands, September brings grape harvest celebrations and the Madeira Wine Festival. Madeira is one of the best-known wines and first gained popularity among the original colonists in the United States.