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Setúbal Wine Region - wineries a bus ride away from Lisbon

Updated: Jul 27, 2021

Looking for wine tours around Lisbon that don't require much (and actually, no) driving? I had the same dilemma. Wineries in Lisbon region are impossible to reach by public transportation, only car, and not all wine lovers drive. But now I know about a gem nearby – Setúbal is just a train/bus ride away from Lisbon and it’s home to Portugal’s oldest table wine producer.

Let’s visit José Maria da Fonseca winery in Azeitão village in Setúbal wine region and find out all about this innovative estate!

wine tour and visit to José Maria da Fonseca winery in Setubal with a view of Moscatel de Setubal vineyard
A sample Moscatel vineyard on site of the Manor house, nowadays the main hospitality hub for José Maria da Fonseca

Peninsula de Setúbal Wine Region

Setúbal is just an estuary away from Lisbon

It was known before as Terras do Sado for the river which flows through its’ lands. Today the official name of the denomination is Peninsula de Setúbal. Setúbal is just an estuary away from Lisbon, to be precise south of the Tejo (Tagus) estuary. The land is mainly flat, very suitable for agriculture, the soils are mainly sandy, while in Serra da Arrábida they’re limestone and clay. The climate is Mediterranean.

The innovator of Portuguese winemaking

José Maria da Fonseca was the first one to sell wine bottled. Before, all wine was sold in bulk, which besides other incommodities made falsifications very frequent. To phrase it differently – he was the first one to protect his brand and ensure consumers can predict what they get in the bottle.

During the tour I saw Portugal’s first bottling machine from 1800’s brought by José Maria da Fonseca from France.

oldest in Portugal wine bottling machine during winery tour and visit to visit José Maria da Fonseca winery
the famous bottling machine... the first one in Portugal

Now let’s see what they do with their Mediterranean climate conditions to make viticulture as sustainable as possible at José Maria da Fonseca (after all we are talking innovation):

  • Starting from the 80’s they stopped mobilizing the soil, retaining the natural vegetation layer, which keeps moisture, reduces the need of watering and is beneficial to plant and animal biodiversity.

  • In 90’s the winery was the first in Portugal to introduce drip irrigation, now it’s a nationwide standard.

  • The soils are fertilized with stems of grapes along the vine rows.

Visiting José Maria da Fonseca in Setúbal wine region

Their winery in Setúbal is famous for two wines the Moscatel de Setúbal - a famous dessert wine from Portugal and Periquita - the most well known red wine from Setúbal. Let’s talk about both.

Moscatel de Setúbal:

  • A fortified sweet wine from Portugal, like Port and Madeira wines.

  • Generally made of Moscatel de Alexandria (one of the most ancient grape varieties, and one of the last not crossed, so remained original from the Phoenician times). If the wine contains at least 85% of Moscatel de Alexandria and comes from Setúbal it can be called Mosca