France has a well-deserved reputation for fine wine but there are many other areas of the world that produce excellent wine as well. For a somewhat out of the ordinary wine gift, why not try some of the lesser known vintages from Portugal? England made port the most famous of Portuguese wines but there are many others available.
Portugal has a rich history of winemaking with about 500 native grape varieties. These varieties produce an abundant supply of distinctive wines, each with it's own personality. The differing climates and soil compositions across Portugal make it a serious contender in creating great wines. In recent years, the country has shown the world by taking awards in several prestigious wine competitions.
The Romans are largely responsible for the winemaking traditions of Portugal. At one time, the region supplied Rome with much of it's wines and it's remained a constant industry ever since. The most popular Portuguese wines are there delicate white wines but they also offer a variety of red and rose wines, as well.
Port is a sweet red wine with a rich flavor. Made in the Douro River Valley region of Portugal, this wine has been a long favorite for savoring the end of a meal. Due to having a low acidity and tannin level, this wine has a very smooth taste despite it's relatively high alcohol content. Winters in Douro are harsh while summers are hot. The grape varieties grown here are exceptionally hardy and produce intense flavors in wine.
Green wine, or vinho verde, is a unique wine offering available from Portugal. This light and delicate wine is meant to be drunk young instead of being aged. The green in the name refer in part to it's youth and also the fact that the grapes are picked before being fully ripened. This is a good choice for a wine gift for a seafood lover as the low alcohol content makes them perfect for pairing with saltier foods.
Wines from the Alentejo region of Portugal are exceptional gift choices. This region spreads over almost a third of the country and encompasses three wine growing areas. Beja and Vidigueira in the south make mostly white wines while Redondo and Borba to the west are famous for their full-bodied red wines. Portalegre, to the north, makes wonderful whites and reds. The best estate wines from this region can age for over 20 years. The wines are very full-bodied and dense while only having alcohol content in the 13% range.
Another major wine region of Portugal is the province of Bairrada, stretching from the Atlantic to Coimbra. The soils of this region have a mixture of limestone and clay which gives this region's wine an earthy flavor. These hardy red wines are a perfect accompaniment to roast pork, lamb, and game. The wines produced in this area have a long aging potential making them a great gift for wine collectors.
As you can see, Portugal has a rich tradition of winemaking. Though often underrated, the wines here rival some of the best produced in the world. They make a wonderful and tasteful gift for any wine lover on your gift list this year.