Curious about wines from Portugal but don’t know where to begin? Let me introduce you to the white wines of Alentejo (pronounced ah-len-TAY-zhoo), located in the center-east portion of Portugal and bordering Spain on the far east side. (see map below). Here you will discover some of Portugal’s over 250 native grape varieties with distinctive flavors, uncover wines that offer outstanding value for the money, and be enticed by a recipe for Portuguese Seafood Stew to pair with the wines.
Portugal Wine Region Map
Alentejo Wine Region By the Numbers
- The Alentejo wine region is just a 90-minute train ride from Lisbon but a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Here you will find a sparsely populated rural area of sweeping fields, rolling hills, and flat plains.
- Alentejo covers 1/3 of the landmass in Portugal; it is about the size of Massachusetts.
- There are about 56,500 acres of vineyard plantings, slightly more than Napa’s 45,000 and about the same as Washington state.
- The region produces 78.1% red, 20.5% white, and 1.4% rosé wines.
- Alentejo averages over 3,000 hours of sunshine annually, similar to San Diego and much higher than Portugal’s national average – already the highest in Europe.
- The Portuguese love the wines from Alentejo and consume one of every three bottles of still wine.
Important Alentejo White Grape Varieties
Antão Vaz – This is the white star of the region. It does well in the hot climate and is highly resistant to drought and disease. The variety produces full-bodied wines with perfumed aromas and tropical, tangerine-peel flavors, and almond notes.
Arinto – Alentejo’s best white blending variety for its lively acidity. The aroma can be subdued but look for fresh flavors of green apple, lemon, lime, and mineral notes. Some wines can show a tropical character with exotic aromas of passion fruit.
Fernão Pires – A highly aromatic variety (think Muscat), with distinguishing notes of pepper on the nose and palate. The taster can expect to find grapefruit, lime, lemon-grass, lime-tree blossom, basil, rose, tangerines, and orange blossom.
Roupeiro (also known as Malvasia and Siria) – Loved for its high aromatics, often exhibiting citrus notes of orange and lemon with hints of peach, melon, laurel, and forest flowers. The wines are fresh with a slight honey character and deep color. Some wines show a robust nutty note with orange peel and dried fruits. Best enjoyed young, the wine tends to lose its aromatics and oxidizes easily.
Verdelho – This variety is known for its high alcohol and acidity. It produces full-bodied wines with high aromatics and notes of nectarines, lemon-lime, grapefruit, honeysuckle, and ripe apricot. Styles can range from fresh and fruity when young to rich and oily (palate-coating) when older, similar to Riesling and Chenin Blanc.
Disclosure: The wines were provided to me by Creative Palate PR as media samples. All opinions are my own.
My Tasting Notes of 6 Alentejo White Wines
2018 Conventual White Reserva DOC
12% abv | $13.00 (sample) winesearcher.com | Arinto, Fernão Pires, Siria, and Bical
Pale straw in color. Aromas of orange blossoms, tangerine, beeswax, and spices. On the palate, medium-bodied and medium acidity. Fresh with a rich mouthfeel followed by lime, tangerine, beeswax, and mineral notes.
2020 Adega de Redondo Porta da Ravessa
12.4% abv | ~$10.00 (sample) | 40% Verdelho, 30% Arinto, and 30% Antão Vaz
Pale straw in color. On the nose, honeysuckle, grassy, and citrus notes. On the palate, medium-bodied and medium acidity. Overall a soft, smooth texture with strong honeysuckle notes, lime, and apricot. The wine finishes with an almond note.
2020 Herdade do Rocim Mariana
12.5% abv | $17.99 (sample) wine.com | 60% Antão Vaz, 30% Arinto, and 10% Alvarinho
Pale straw in color with a green hue. Alluring fresh aromas of minerals and orange blossoms. On the palate, medium-bodied with medium(+) acidity. A lovely round mouthfeel with citrus, orange zest, and minerals flavors. A noticeable vegetal note in the finish.
2021 Marquês de Borba White DOC
12.5% abv | ~ $15.00 (sample) | 70% Arinto, 15% Antão Vaz, 15% Viognier
Pale straw in color. Aromas of citrus, minerals, and herbs. On the palate, medium-bodied and medium acidity. The wine is refreshing and clean with flavors of lemon-lime and minerals. Very nicely balanced.
2021 Torre de Palma Branco
13.5% abv | ~ $19.00 (sample) | Arinto and Alvarinho
Pale straw in color with a green hue. Aromas of citrus, tropical fruit, orange blossoms, and a hint of minerals. On the palate, medium-bodied and medium(+) acidity. Bright, intense flavors of pineapple with notes of lime and minerals. Nicely balanced with a flavorful lingering finish.
2021 Esporão Colheita
14% abv | ~$10.00 (sample) | Antão Vaz, Viosinho, Alvarinho, Vermentino, and others
Pale straw in color with a green hue. Aromas of citrus and papaya. On the palate, medium(+) bodied and medium(+ ) acidity. Flavors of lemon and papaya. Layers of lingering flavor.
The Pairing: Portuguese Seafood Stew with Alentejo White Wines
Any of these Alentejo wines would pair with this Portuguese Seafood Stew. The medium body, round texture, and good acidity make them all a food-friendly pairing for this stew. The seafood elements in the stew bring out the mineral notes in the wines, the tomatoes balance and echo the acidity in the wine, and the creamy white beans mirror the smooth texture and mouthfeel in the wine. Portuguese white wines from Alentejo love seafood!
Portuguese Seafood Stew
For the beans
- 1 lb. dried white beans I used "Rancho Gordo" Cassoulet beans
- 2 medium white onions, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
For the stew base
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive
- 2 medium white onions, chopped
- 5 medium to large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons Aleppo Pepper flakes I like Aleppo Pepper for its medium heat level
- 1 28-oz can whole plum and peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano I like San Marzano for their sweetness and tenderness, worth the extra price
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Seafood
- 6 6 oz. lobster tails
- 1-1/2 cups dry white wine
- 24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 30 littleneck clams in their shell, cleaned
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
For the beans
- In a large stockpot, add the white beans and cover with 6 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Let the beans rest for 2 hours. Drain the beans and cover by at least 2-inch of fresh cold water and add the chopped onions, garlic, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer until the beans are cooked but not soft. (Add salt after 30 minutes). Remove the bay leaf.
For the stew base
- In a 12-inch skillet, warm the extra virgin olive oil. Add the onions and sauté over medium heat until soft about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, Aleppo Pepper flakes, and the can of tomatoes. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes, breaking down the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon. Drain the beans and add them to the onion and tomato skillet. Simmer for 20 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Add the wine, as needed, to thin the stew mixture before adding the seafood.
Steam the lobster tails
- In a large stock pot with a steamer basket insert, pour 1 to 2-inches of water into the stock pot. Bring to a boil. Place the steamer insert inside the pot making sure the insert is above the water level. Add the lobster tails in the steamer basket insert and cover the pot.
- Steam the lobster tails for about 7 minutes, do not open the lid in between time. Remove the tails and let them cool until you can handle them to remove the shell. Cut down the center of the softer under-shell from the big end to the fan-tail. Twist the tail to separate the meat from the shell. Set aside.
To finish the stew
- Add the shrimp and clams to the tomato bean mixture. Cover the skillet and cook until the clams open and the shrimp are cooked through. Discard any clams that do not open during a reasonable cooking time. Add the lobster tails to the stew just to warm them.
- To serve: Ladle into shallow wide rim soup bowls, evenly dividing the seafood between 6 bowls. Garnish with chopped cilantro.