COLARES, Portugal — The vineyards in this small wine region west of Lisbon on the Atlantic coast look like something that slithered up from the sea.
Trained low to avoid the biting wind that blows incessantly off the ocean, the vines resemble green serpents snaking along the sand. It’s as if vines from a more conventional region had come to the beach on vacation and had collapsed in a deep slumber.
Colares, one of the world’s most singular wine regions, emits a sleepy timelessness. The grapes are grown today just as they have been for centuries, except far fewer of them can be found. As recently as the 1940s, vines covered almost 2,500 acres of these sandy soils.
Only about 50 acres remain, spread over a narrow swatch west of the Sintra area, where the royal families of Portugal escaped the steamy Lisbon summers for colorful wind-cooled palaces. Much of the vineyard territory was lost in the 1960s and ’70s to suburban expansion.
Yet Colares produces what may well be Portugal’s most distinctive still wines. The reds, made of the ramisco grape, are high in acid and powerfully tannic, so much so that they are aged for years in the cellars before they are released. The current vintage on the market is 2007.
For all their initial intensity, the wines soften after 10 years of aging, revealing a graceful complexity, with savory kaleidoscopic flavors: herbal, balsam and saline. The wines are low in alcohol, too, seldom reaching 12.5 percent.
The white wines — made from the malvasia de Colares grape, which is genetically distinct from other grapes called malvasia — are fresh, rich and likewise herbal and saline with depth and character. They do not require quite as much aging as the reds; the current vintage is 2012.
An article from The New York Times by Eric Asimov