Algarve is a Portuguese wine region covering the same areas as its namesake region. The region is classified as a 'Vinho Regional' (VR), a designation similar to the French 'vin de pays' region. Located on the southern coast of Portugal, the region's wine industry is driven by the local population and tourist industry with very little wine exported.
Although the Algarve has had a historical link with wine (winemaking has been practised here since Phoenician times and especially since the Romans) the truth is that traditional winemaking was insignificant for many decades and has not produced wine of quality. Only in the last few years have young producers and enologists with enough technical know-how invested in advanced winemaking techniques and modern wineries to produce quality wines with the ability to produces some excellent wines, capable of competing with varieties from more established wine-growing areas such as the Alentejo, Dao and Douro and internationally.
The region enjoys a southerly location, protected by the Monchique mountains from the cold north winds, and its southern-facing aspect creates a favourable climate for vines. There are three appellations (DOC) in the Algarve: Portimao, Única - Adega Cooperativa do Algarve (which includes what was: Lagos & Lagoa) and Tavira - from where new brands have recently come onto the market. Now that sufficient quality has been achieved, it has become vital to publicise the wines outside of Portugal.
The wines of the Algarve consist of reds and whites made mostly from the Negra Mole and the Crato Branco, respectively. The reds are soft and low in acidity due to the warm climate, but rather high in alcohol, the whites are also very full-bodied and best enjoyed very chilled.
The soils are sandy and gritty and produce wonderful almonds, oranges and avocados. Most Algarve wines are made by cooperatives - half by the region's oldest co-operative. The region's second-largest cooperative, in Única, produces about 30% of Algarve wines. The rest of the production comes from Tavira, Portimao and private growers.