The Setubal Peninsula is located south of Lisbon and has border with wine region of Tejo. This region lies just across the Tagus estuary and it is the perfect place to spend time exploring the natural beauty and enjoying the local excellent wines. This is thanks to the perfectly warm maritime climate. A trip through the Setubal Peninsula also means the chance to discover some of Portugal’s best fortified wines. Don’t forget to pair these wines with local dishes as Setubal is well known for its gastronomy. The Setubal Peninsula provides the ultimate Portuguese wine tourism experience for both wine connoisseurs and casual wine drinkers.
The wines from the Setubal Peninsula are internationally recognized for their remarkable and outstanding qualities. The most famous of the Setubal wine region is the Moscatel de Setubal, the sublime wine that should not be missed.
Within the Setubal Peninsula, there are two subregions: Setubal and Palmela. Most of the Setubal wine region is made up of flat lands with sandy soils and extensive rows of vineyards. The highest part of the wine region is along the Arrabida Mountain Range where vines have been planted in clay limestone soils.
HISTORY BOX: The history books of the Setubal wine region show that vines were first introduced to the region in around 2000 BC. These vines were brought to the region so that wine could be used in commercial trade. The Setubal Peninsula wine region was officially recognized as a wine region in 1908.
Oaky Wines of Setubal
Most Setubal wines are left to mature in oak barrels for at least four to five years. During this time, the wine becomes a burnt orange colour. It also develops a spiciness and smells similar to a delicious baking Christmas cake. The top of the range Setubal wines spend four times as long in the barrel. They then become browner in colour than orange.
The winemakers of the Setubal region often add leftover Moscatel grape skins into the mixture when making their wines. These grape skins are then left for up to 6 months during which time they macerate with the wines. The result of this is Moscatel de Setúbal that is extremely pungent and with heavy floral aromas.
White varieties: Arinto, Fernao Pires, Moscatel de Setubal
What to Expect from Setubal Wines
Within the Setubal Peninsula wine region, the DOC Palmela is very well known for its production of red wines. The high quality of these red wines is thanks to the late ripening of the Castelao grape. This grape grows extremely well in the sandy soils of Palmela where it is also very hot. The late ripening of the grape gives it a complex flavour with extreme depth.
The DOC Setubal is best known for the production of sweet and fortified wines. These wines are made mostly using the Muscat grape. When the Muscat makes up more than 85% of the wine blend, it can then be labelled a Moscatel de Setubal. The Moscatel de Setubal has flavours of candied orange and raisins. When the wine is left to age over time, these flavours change and became nuttier with a deeper level of maturity. Along with Moscatel de Setubal, liqueur wines are made in small quantities in the Setubal wine region. These liqueurs are made using the Mosctael Roxo grape.
Wineries to Visit
Eaither you are staying in Lisbon and want to take a day trip, or traveling accross the Portugal, visiting Setubal wine region and discovering its wines in rural areas, is an experience you should put in your must-do list.
The Setubal Peninsula wine region offers a range of fantastic wine tastings and experiences and is the icon of wine tourism in Portugal.
Fernao Po Winery
The Fernao Po Winery is a family-run winery that has been producing wine for generations. The focus of this winery is producing Portuguese wine that is as close to nature as it can possibly be. All those who visit Fernao Po are made to feel right at home by the family. Fernao Po offers a range of wine tourism experiences including wine tastings, food and wine pairings, and traditional meals.
The Quinta Do Piloto winery and the estate is located in the beautiful town of Palmela. This family-run winery has over 200 hectares of vines planted in the best terroir of the region. For visitors to Quinta Do Piloto, there are wine tasting experiences, wine events as well as a fantastic wine shop. For those looking to extend their stay, Quinta Do Piloto offers warm and welcoming accommodation facilities.
The Ribafreixo winery is one of the most modern winemaking facilities in the Setubal region. The state-of-the-art winery includes a wine shop, restaurant serving traditional local meals, and a wine tasting area. Ribafreixo winery offers tailored experiences to meet the needs of each visitor.
The Costa de Caparica is a beach that is located only 20km outside of Lisbon. This beachside paradise is the perfect place to spend warm summer days and also to learn more about the local Portuguese culture. The most popular attraction in the Costa de Caparica is the Costa de Caparica Fossil Cliff Protected Landscape.
This protected area is a haven for hiking, fishing, and enjoying the best and freshest Portuguese seafood. Another area of Costa de Caparica that should not be missed is the Bairro dos Pescadores or the Fisherman’s Quarter. It is here that you can see Portuguese fishing culture and its best and taste the best fish straight from the ocean. If you can, be sure to walk the beaches of the Costa de Caparica at sunset for truly unforgettable views.
Setubal – A Former Industrial City of Incredible Beauty
The city of Setubal is a bustling port and commercial fishing center. Setubal is located on the banks of the Sado River, 40kms from Lisbon. Historically, Setubal was once the most important fishing center in Portugal. Today, however, most of the fishing centers and factories have closed and Setubal has become a tourism hub. Visitors flock to Setubal to experience the beautiful natural scenery. One of the most popular sites in Setubal is the Arrabida Hills Natural Park. This park offers visitors access to some of the best beaches on the Atlantic Ocean and completely unspoiled nature.
When visiting Setubal be sure to keep an eye out for the local colony of dolphins that live in the Sado River. The town of Setubal has something to offer every visitor from luxury 5-star beach resorts to laid back beach cabins with glorious views. Be sure to add Setubal to your itinerary for a wonderful seaside experience.
Palmela – The Link to Ancient Portugal
Palmela is known to many as one of Portugal’s most charming small towns. This town is built around the Quinta do Picao castle which sits at 1200 meters high. The castle is perched on the very edge of the Arrabida mountain range. The location of the castle provides visitors with some of the best views over the surrounding farmlands and the Sado estuary. Some say that they can even see as far as Lisbon!
The locals of Palmela consider this small town to be a land of history, excellent snacks, and even better wine. Besides enjoying the local wines there are a number of other attractions to visit in Palmela. One of these is St. Peter’s Church. Visitors are allowed to enter the church and see the wooden sculpture of the Santiago Pilgrim. This sculpture has been present in the church since the 16th century. For the best in local snacks and wine, be sure to pop into the Casa Mae de Rota dos Vinhos.
Hidden Treasure of Setubal
The Alqueva Reservoir on the Setubal peninsula is one of the area’s hidden treasures. The Alqueva lake is one of Europe’s largest artificial lakes. This lake is the perfect place to enjoy a range of outdoor activities. The activities that are available at the lake include water skiing, sailing, wakeboarding, canoeing, and kayaking. For those who prefer to stay on the land, there are also wonderful trails for walking, hiking, and mountain biking. Alqueva lake provides the perfect getaway for those looking for a family day out or for a romantic mini-break. The beautiful houseboats on the lake are the perfect location for romantic overnight stargazing.
Setubal is the Perfect Place to Explore Nature
The changing landscapes this wine region provides ever-changing breath-taking scenes. Thanks to the perfect climate of the region there is endless sunshine and long days. Take advantage of nature at its best and explore the landscapes of the Setubal Peninsula.
Reserva Natural do Estuario de Sado
The Reserva Natural do Estuario de Sado is a natural reserve that protects the Sado Estuary. This natural reserve is made of a network of wetlands that extend to the east and to the south of Setubal. The Reserva Natural do Estuario de Sado is the perfect location for those who enjoy the outdoors and wildlife. The reserve is home to over 250 different species of birds. For those who would like to spend the day in nature, the Reserva Natural do Estuario de Sado also has short walking trails to explore the wetlands.
Unusual Shapes of Fossil Rock Formation
The Paisagem Protegida da Arriba Fóssil da Costa de Caparica is a protected area in the Costa de Caparica. This area is protected as it is home to the Arriba Fossils. The fossils are embedded in a range of sedimentary rocks that date back to 10 million years ago. The Paisagem Protegida da Arriba Fóssil da Costa de Caparica is now a popular tourist destination where visitors can walk along marked trails and explore the fossil embedded rocks. The best time to visit the fossil park is at dusk when the sun casts a golden glow over the imposing rock formations.
Parque Natural da Arrabida – Untouched nature at its best
The Parque Natural da Arrabida is a natural park located along the coast of the Setubal Peninsula. This park is made of a collection of green hills, sharp cliffs, and golden stretches of beaches. The Parque Natural da Arrabida is 350km in length and follows the course of the Serra da Arrabida mountain range. The area is strictly protected because of its wealth of untouched fauna and flora. Walk through the Parque Natural da Arrabida and discover endless fields of lavender, chamomile, pistachio, and olive trees. This is truly the perfect place to reconnect with nature.
Top-3 Dishes you Should Try in Setubal
As the heart of the Portuguese fishing industry, the Setubal Peninsula is most famous for its fresh seafood. Stop at any restaurant in the Setubal wine region and you are guaranteed to be offered the best and freshest seafood at extremely affordable prices. Don’t miss the opportunity to try the famous and mouthwatering Setubal sardines paired with a fresh and crisp local white wine.
Quaijo de Azeitao – Award-Winning Cheese
In 2014, Quaijo de Azeitao was named by the Great Taste Awards as one of the 50 best gastronomic products in the whole world!
Quaijo de Azeitao is a cheese that is made only in the Setubal wine region. The production of Quaijo de Azeitao in the Setubal region dates back to the 19th century. This local cheese is semi-soft and is made from sheep milk that is unpasteurized. The milk that is used in making the cheese is taken only from sheep that graze on the natural vegetation of the region.
The sheep are milked using only manual methods. Following this, the sheep milk is mixed with a local thistle plant to begin curdling. Once it has curdled, salt is added to the curd and the mixture is manually worked using muslin cloths. The flavors of Quaijo de Azeitao is both salty and sour with hints of herbs. It is best served with fresh bread but can also make a great dessert with served with fruit.
Choco Frito – Cuttlefish from the Setubal Peninsula
Choco Frito is the most famous local dish of the Setubal Peninsula. The name of the dish sounds like it might contain chocolate, but it is in fact fried cuttlefish. Once fried, the cuttlefish are normally served drizzled with lemon and accompanied by fries, salad or potato chips.
In preparing the Choco Frito, the cuttlefish are first boiled in garlic and bay leaves. After this, they are marinated in wine and lemon juice. Once they have been left to marinate for long enough, they are coated with seasoned cornflower and then deep-fried until they are golden and perfect. For a true taste of Setubal, bite into a crispy, crunchy, and succulent Choco Frito.
Farinha Torrada – The traditional dessert of Setubal
The name Farinha Torrada means toasted flour. This traditional dessert of the Setubal wine region has a long and interesting history. The treat originated from the need to make a delicious dessert that would last long and be nutritious so that fishermen could take them to sea. Farinha Torrada is made of eggs, sugar, and flour. These ingredients are combined to form a dough that can also be flavored with cinnamon, lemon, and chocolate. Once the Farinha Torrada is cooked, it is normally served cut in a square. This local treat is so important to the Setubal region that is has even been registered by the local city council.