Portugal's Ribatejo Wine Region: History, Grapes, & Wineries

The "Bairro" ("neighborhood") area lies north of the Tejo. Soils are mostly clay and marl.  The climate can be classified as Atlantic or near-Atlantic; this area gets more rain than the Campo or Charneco, sometimes as much as 31 inches per year.

Ribatejo Grape Varieties

view counter

Ribatejo's wine law permits use of a dizzying array of wine grape varieties.  Adding to the identity confusion, a separate wine law applies to Vinho Regional, or Ribatejano wines.  Some of the permitted white wine grape varieties in the Ribatejo DO include arinto, fernão pires, rabo de ovelha, tália, trincadeira das pratas, verdelho and vital.  Permitted red wine grape varieties include aragonez, baga, camarate, castelão, preto martinho, tinta miúda, touriga franca, touriga nacional and trincadeira.  Several additional varieties of red and white wine grapes, both domestic and foreign, are also permitted.

Visiting Ribatejo Wineries

Ribatejo has established a wine route that is divided into four itineraries.  Each itinerary focuses on a particular theme, such as bulls and horses or the Knights Templar, as well as on the region's wines.  Most wineries on the route prefer to be contacted before the day of your visit.  Interestingly, some of the region's best-known wineries, including Caves Dom Teodósio and Falua, are not part of the wine route.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

If you want to learn more about the history of winemaking in Ribateja, spend an hour or two at the Museu Rural e do Vinho in Cartaxo.  You can see all kinds of historic tools, wine storage vessels and unusual winemaking contraptions.  (Web site in Portuguese only.)

Wine writer Hugh Johnson** calls Pinhal da Torre one of Ribatejo's "rising stars" There is a wine museum on the property, which is not yet open for tastings and tours.  Contact the winery to find out when it will be open to the public.

Casa Cadaval dates back to 1648, when the winery was established by the first Duke of Cadaval.  The estate is known not only for its wines but also for its stud farm; Lusitano horses are bred here.  If you visit, you'll also see Mertolengo cattle on the property.  You can arrange for a wine tasting or tour, but it's best to contact the winery in advance, particularly if you wish to visit on a weekend.

Quinta do Casal Branco, another majestic estate known for its horses and cattle as well as its wines, offers tours and tastings.

Quinta Grande, in the Coruche sub-region, offers wine tastings.  Cattle and crops are raised on this estate.  The winery also sponsors a water skiing club, complete with training courses, accommodations and wakeboarding and kneeboarding equipment.  (Web site in Portuguese only.)

Ribatejo's Future

Ribatejo's wine makers are producing high quality wines and are capable of even greater accomplishments.  This DO has all the elements for success in place – distinct terroirs, modernized wineries, increased investment and winemakers committed to improving quality.   Ribatejo is definitely a region to watch.

*The Wines and Vineyards of Portugal, page 242.

**Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book 2008, page 157.