Originating in Latin, the name “caste” (“casta” in Portuguese) means “pure; without mixing”. It can also be said that grape varieties are a type of vines with their own characteristics and that impart unique qualities to the wine. In addition to the intrinsic characteristics of each variety, the soil and the climate are also essential for the final result of the wine.
The best-known white grape varieties in Portugal
The Alvarinho variety produces very characteristic white wines, rich in minerals, with hints of peach and citrus and, sometimes, tropical fruits. Alvarinho has always been highly valued in the northwest of Portugal and is widely planted in the northern part of the Vinho Verde region.
All wines produced from this variety are fuller and more alcoholic than most of the Vinho Verde wines, and are usually bottled as monovarietal wine with the name of the variety on the label.
They are great when drunk young, however they age very well.
Region where it is most cultivated: Vinho Verde.
The Arinto grape produces elegant white, mineral wines with notes of lemon and apple. They are great wines when young; however they gain complexity as they age. It is the main variety of white wines from Bucelas and is grown almost all over the country.
It is a late ripening grape that has the advantage of maintaining its acidity even in hot conditions. The fact that it is acidic gives it an advantage for creating sparkling wines. It resembles quince, green apple, lemon and minerals. It has great acidity, moderate alcohol and great capacity to age in oak.
Regions where it is most cultivated: Lisboa (Bucelas) and Vinho Verde.
Fernão Pires is the most widely planted white grape variety in Portugal; produces light, fruity and perfumed white wines. It presents a greater freshness when it is harvested early, creating very aromatic and fresh wines. It is also used in sparkling wines and, if it is harvested later, it can create late harvest wines. In Bairrada it is known as Maria Gomes.
Regions where it is most cultivated: Bairrada, Lisboa, Tejo, Península de Setúbal and Alentejo.
The Encruzado grape variety produces elegant, balanced, full-bodied wines with delicate floral aromas, which can also sometimes reveal an intense mineral character. It reacts well to fermentation and aging in barrels, producing seriously fine and well-structured wines that gain complexity over the years.
It is most likely to be found in the Dão region, and in monovarietal wines. In the vineyard, in warm conditions, this grape variety maintains its fresh acidity and ripens very well, without becoming too sweet. The wines are floral, citrus and mineral.
Region where it is most cultivated: Dão.
Antão Vaz is a native white grape variety, grown mainly in the regions of Alentejo, Lisbon and Península de Setúbal. The wines produced from this variety are usually of high alcohol content, light citrus color and medium intensity. They also have great complexity, with notes of ripe tropical fruits.
Regions where it is most cultivated: Alentejo, Lisboa and Península de Setúbal.
Bical is an early variety, without great climatic requirements and that prefers medium fertility soils. The wines it produces usually have some alcohol content, have a citrus color and are very fruity, smooth and balanced.
They have a good aging capacity, showing great results when they age in oak casks.
Region where it is most cultivated: Beira Interior - IGP das Beiras.
Cercial is a grape variety grown in several regions of Portugal, with special emphasis on the Bairrada area.
It is an early grape variety, ideal for clay-limestone soils, and a moderately dry climate is favorable. The wines it produces have good potential for elementary wines and are characterized by having a good balance between alcohol content and acidity.
Intense color and citrus hue, with high aging capacity.
Region where it is most cultivated: Bairrada.
The greatest expansion of the Gouveio variety is in Trás-os-Montes. It is a variety that is flexible in terms of soils and climate, adapting well.
The wines it produces are usually citrus colored, and have an excellent balance between acidity and sugar. They are characterized by having a good alcohol content, fruity and intense aromas.
It has a great evolution in the bottle.
Region where it is most cultivated: Trás-os-Montes.
The Loureiro variety is considered to be indigenous in the Vinhos Verdes and Galicia region. It is grown mainly in the regions of Vinho Verde, Beira Interior and Península de Setúbal.
It is an early maturing grape variety that prefers deep and medium fertility soils. The wines it produces must be consumed young and have a citrus hue of a weak color and very noble aromas.
Regions where it is most cultivated: Vinho Verde, Beira Interior and Península de Setúbal.
Native Portuguese grape variety cultivated in several regions, with great emphasis on the Porto and Douro and Trás-os-Montes regions.
It is early matured and prefers dry soils and a moderate climate. It has a high acidity that makes it interesting for the preparation of batches with less acidic varieties. It presents aromas of medium and sweet intensity. In taste it is balanced and fresh.
Regions where it is most cultivated: Porto e Douro and Trás-os-Montes.
The most well-known white grape varieties in the world
Chardonnay is one of the most famous white grape varieties, we can find it in any wine list. The most typical aromas of this variety are: melon, papaya, mango and apple.
The wine region of Burgundy, France, is its place of origin; however, the Chardonnay of California and Australia are also quite famous.
Sauvignon Blanc is another of the best known white grape varieties in the world, above all because they are dry and fresh wines.
Originating in France, especially in the wine regions of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. The aromas of this variety vary between floral and fruity, depending on whether the grape is grown in a cooler or more tropical climate.
Riesling originates in the Rhine region in Germany, especially in the wine sub-regions of Mosel and Rheingau.
Regarding wine production, the Riesling variety is among the first three, along with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
They stand out for being very aromatic wines and rich in acidity, with floral or tropical fruit notes. Unlike many grape varieties, Riesling is almost never mixed with another variety.
It originates in Alsace, France. It is a grape variety that is part of the Pinot family, which also includes Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc.
The wines produced with this variety tend to have a yellow to golden appearance, and are acid wines with aromas of mandarin, peach, thyme and wild flowers.
This variety produces aromatic and liqueur wines that can be classified as the best dessert wines.
The wines produced with the Sémillon variety can be quite light and citrusy or aromatic and complex, when matured in oak barrels.
The best known producers of this variety are located in the Bordeaux wine region, where they make sweet wines, as well as dry white blends. There are also other countries that are well known for planting this variety: Australia, New Zealand, Chile, South Africa and Argentina.
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