For more than 2,000 years, Portuguese wineries have harvested local grape varieties and turned them into wine. Over the last 25 years, however, there's been a revolution in one of the world's oldest continuing industries. Local growers now value quality over quantity, they invest in state-of-the-art equipment, and they modernize every aspect of the production–except for the two-dozen native Portuguese grape varieties. Portuguese wines have become recognized as refreshing alternatives to the otherwise dominant French grape. Many of Portugal's centuries-old estates have now opened their own inns to welcome travelers. When fall and harvest time arrive, the world is invited to share the traditions, tastes and colors of this ancient industry with modern overtones. Visitors can enjoy overnight stays or just a tour at vineyards throughout the 20 designated wine regions Portugal has to offer. Come see how wine is harvested, participate in the harvest, learn about how the grape becomes wine, partake in tasting dinners and enjoy sweeping views over the river valleys and fields of Portugal's wine country. Forget Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon—how about some new grapes? Fresh, complex and unique, distinctly Portuguese grapes include Louriero, Alvarinho, Bical, Arinto, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Baga.
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.
Port wines may be the oldest and best-known wines from Portugal, but they are certainly not alone. 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.
UNESCO designates two of Portugal’s wine-producing regions as World Heritage Sites. 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. 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.