The Region

The Region of Colares Demarcated since 1908

It is the westernmost Demarcated Region in continental Europe and the smallest producing region of still wines in the country. An original viticulture with unusual and ancient cultural techniques!

Location

Bordered to the west by the Atlantic Ocean and to the south by the Sintra Mountain, 25 km northwest of Lisbon, the Colares Demarcated Region includes the old parishes of Colares, São João das Lampas and São Martinho, in the Sintra municipality.

Our PrideColares

Irrational viticulture? Paradoxal wine? Yes. Fortunately, not all the wine world is written in black and white!

Region
Colares
Altitude Média
50 m
Latitude
38° 48' 21.0348" N
Longitude
-9° 27' 7.1094" W
Grape Varieties
Unique grape varieties (Ramisco and Malvasia de Colares).
Vineyard
Unusual deep sandy soils, where even the philoxera bug couldn’t thrive.
Soils
Unusual deep sandy soils, where even the philoxera bug couldn’t thrive.
Influence
Muscular Atlantic influence, on the westernmost tip of Continental Europe!
Weather
Strong and salty sea winds that scratch anything that tries to grow!
Fog and mist
Impenetrable mists and one the poorest summer insolation indexes in Portugal
Battle
A constant battle against the loss of land due to real estate pressure.

The real Atlantic, mineral and salty!Climate

The real Atlantic, mineral and salty!

Due to the closeness of the sea, the climate is very specific and harsh, with moderate temperatures, strong sea winds, and a high percentage of air moisture. Thus, the vines must necessarily be protected from this extreme maritime influence and, for this, winegrowers use what nature offers them: the protection is accomplished through hand-made palisades of dried canes sewn with wicker. Due to the wind, the vines grow low, without the use of trellising systems.

The resulting landscape looks extraordinary and it’s unique in all the wine world.

Clima Colares

Region...Soils

The region is divided into two sub-regions corresponding to two different soil types:

Sand soil (“Chão de Areia”) — Dune sand soils. Sand on top of consolidated materials (clay). From these vineyards, by the sea, we obtain the grapes for our DOC Colares wines.

Clay soil (“Chão Rijo” or hard soil) — Brown clay and limestone soils, located in the interior of the region. Here we produce the grapes for our IGP Lisbon wines.

Colares, different wines! ...The Grape Varieties

Apart from the very specific microclimate and soil that shapes them, these wines are made with grapes from local vine varieties, which are produced only here. This was the region that saw them born!

  • Ramisco – the queen of Colares red grape variety, giving rise to red wines of enormous complexity and with recognised ageing potential;
  • Malvasia de Colares – the white grape variety par excellence. Fresh, herbal, mineral and salty wines.
  • João Santarém ou Castelão – the traditional red grape variety from the “Chão Rijo” soil and common throughout the Lisbon region.

Region...Viticulture

Vines are grown in sandy soil similar to beach sand. The whole planting process is very different from that in other regions, because we cannot plant directly in the sand, since it is a poor soil, without water and nutrient retention necessary for the plants to thrive.
Man’s ingenuity has found a way to overcome this limitation, allowing the cultivation of vines in a place that, at first sight, would not be at all suitable for the culture.
For planting of these vineyards, the first step is to remove all the sand, down to the clay layer, where the plant material (rods) is set. A very laborious operation that requires the movement of huge amounts of sand, excavating up to 2 to 3 meters deep.
For the next 3 to 4 years, the sand is gradually put back, together with manure applications, till the vineyard is settled in level ground and ready for production.
These plants are living monuments, some of them more than 100 years old Traditional, the vines have one or more arms of old wood spread on the ground. The arms hold the rods, sometimes more than 10 per vine. The sand, responsible for this laborious plantation, becomes the winegrower’s best friend as it radiates the heat necessary for the ripening of the berries, allowing to balance the adverse climatic factors (lack of sunshine and temperature due to humidity and fog).
Just before ripening, the bunches are propped up away from the sand, using 50 cm-long pieces of cane. At this stage, grape clusters are often covered with dried weeds from the vineyard itself, to prevent sunburns.
Properties are generally small and bound by loose stone walls, stones being brought from vineyards planted in non-sandy soils, known locally as “hard soil”.
This is a wholly hand-made viticulture seen at its best during the ripening period, that is, between mid- August and mid-September.

A BIT OF HISTORYPhylloxera, the plague that Colares does not know!

There are documents proving the existence of vineyards in this region in the 12th century (Afonso Henriques, first Portugal king). Historians attribute the introduction of the ‘Ramisco’ variety to king Afonso III (13th century), who supposedly brought it from northern France (Boulogne) where he lived for some time.

The same king promoted the planting of vineyards in Colares and instituted fines for those who uprooted vines. His son (king Dinis, 13-14lh century) subjected the moorish owners of Colares lands to o tax that was to be paid partly in wine from this region. The first documented Colares wine export was made in 1367. It was often taken in sea voyages to India (l6th century), due to its long life. In the 16th century, this region yielded enough wine to cover all the demand in Portugal.

The Portuguese oenologist Ferreira Lapa (19th century) has said about this wine: “Colares is the [Portuguese] wine that resembles French wines most”.

In 1865, phylloxera entered the northern part of the country and decimated much of the European vineyards. In Colares, the grape varieties installed in sandy soil resisted this plague, that feature brought a large expansion of viticulture in this region.

The reason: the insect cannot reach the roots of the vines due to the depth to which they are planted. The enormous layer of sand that exists between the surface and the clay acts like a natural barrier against the lice.

Till today, Colares maintains all the genetic originality of European Vitis and its native varieties, as we do not need to use the American Vitis rootstock to control the pest. Our sand vines are not grafted, so they are all “pé-franco”.

At the beginning of the 20th century, in 1908, Colares become legally a Demarcated Region.

Please download our informative leaflet here: PDF File

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