The DOC area named after the city on the Atlantic coast is located southeast of the Portuguese capital Lisbon on the Península Setúbal peninsula in the central west in the Península de Setúbal area. The climate here in autumn is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and especially by cool and very humid air currents from the Tejo estuary. The vines grow here on calcareous, sandy and clayey soils. After Port and Madeira, this is the third great dessert wine in Portugal with a very old tradition. The French Sun King Louis XIV (1638-1715) is said to have always demanded the liqueur wine from Setúbal for his festivities in Versailles. The English wine author Cyrus Redding (1785-1870) praised the wine in 1851 in his book "A History and Description of Modern Wine". Around 1860 the wine was exported to three continents. In the same way as Madeira, it was loaded onto ships before being sold in barrels and transported twice over the equator. Such bottles, marked TVE(Torna Viagem) on the label, dating from 1870 to 1890, are still stored in the cellars of the Fonseca company.
The wine is made from at least 85% Moscatel de Setúbal(Muscat d'Alexandrie), as well as small portions of mainly Arinto, Boal Branco(Malvasia Fina), Moscatel Douro(Muscat Blanc) and the reddish variety Moscatel Roxo. In this case it may call itself Moscatel de Setúbal. If less than 85%, but at least 67%, of Muscatel varieties have been used for the wine, it can only call itself Setúbal. For the remaining 33%, however, a number of other white and red wine varieties are also permitted. In most cases, the wine is a blend of different vintages, in particularly good years there is also a vintage Setúbal.
After destemming, the grapes are gently pressed. After a relatively short fermentation in fermentation barrels or large concrete tanks, it is broken off at an alcohol content of about 12% vol. and residual sugar below 100 g/l by sprittling with pure alcohol (spirit of wine). The fermented material is now stored for at least six to 12 months with subsequent pressing and filtering. The young wine now continues to mature in oak or mahogany barrels in oxidative aging. Some producers, such as Fonseca, add grapes at this stage to increase the fruitiness. The loss due to evaporation is made up for by wines of the same age. The Torna Viagem, which used to be common for selected wines, is no longer common. Maturation takes at least five to six years, and for special qualities even 20 to 25 years. The younger wines are amber-coloured, the very old cognac-coloured with aromas of coffee, and honey. The wines have a residual sugar of up to 90 g/l and an alcohol content of 18 to 20% vol. They are characterised by decades of storage life.