Algarve (sometimes called “the Algarve” by Western tourists) is the southernmost wine region of Portugal, located in the very southwestern corner of the Iberian Peninsula. It is perhaps known as much for its beaches, tourism industry and warm, sunny climate as for its wine, but Algarve has a long winemaking tradition dating all the way back to the Middle Ages.
Today, Algarve produces some white wines (mostly from Arinto, Malvasia Fina, Manteudo and Siria grapes), but is primarily focused on red wines made from Castelao and Touriga Nacional grapes. In addition, Syrah is a popular international variety in Algarve.
While Algarve shares a border with the winemaking region of Alentejo to the north, a line of mountains help to block out the dry, hot climate found elsewhere in Portugal’s south. Instead, it is seemingly never too hot and never too cold in the Algarve. The region gets over 3,000 hours of sunshine per year. These growing conditions lead to red wines that are juicy, potent and sweet, but with little depth of flavor. They lack the acidity that can be refreshing during hot summers.
Most of the wines produced in the Algarve are from a small number of co-ops. However, recently there has been a growing presence of independent producers. There are four primary wine-producing sub-zones of Algarve: Lagos, Portimao, Lagoa, and Tavira. These largely correspond to cities famed for their holiday tourists. And, in fact, wine tourism is a growing business in the Algarve.
The name “Algarve” is actually based on an Arabic word (“Al-Gharb Andalus”) used by Moorish invaders during the Middle Ages to describe the region. The city of Tangiers in Morocco is located just 200 kilometers away, all of which lends Algarve a certain sense of exotic mystery.
Image Source: sograpevinhos.com