Portugal

15 growing regions

In ancient times, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans introduced vines to the Iberian peninsula. While the long centuries of Moorish rule from the 8th to the 12th centuries led to stagnation in wine production, the prohibition on wine nevertheless did not lead to a collapse of the industry. As in many other countries, the Cistercian monks influenced wine production decisively, establishing more than 1200 abbies in Portugal in the 12th century. King Dinis (1279-1325) encouraged agriculture and viticulture so effectively that the proceeds could be used to build a large merchant fleet, which became the basis for Portugal’s rise to being a world power. He was given the nickname "rei lavrador" (king of the farmers). From the time Portugal gained independence in 1385 an active trade in wine with England developed. The most famous wine of Portugal, port, was discovered when the English king William III. imposed such high customs duties on the import of French wines in 1693 that English wine merchants chose to look to Portugal instead for their supplies. Specific demarkations for the Duoro region were set in 1756. Most of the vineyards were destroyed by mildew and phylloxera in the 19th century. Reconstruction took place only after 1930. The end of the period of dictatorship in 1974 was followed by a swing from the mass production of cheap wines to quality products. Statistics dated 2000 reflect a total current vineyard area of 261.000 hectares, producing 7 million hectolitres of wine. White wines account for 30% of the total, while red and rosé wines make up 70% of total production. Among the best-known Portuguese wines are madeira, port and vinho verde. However, branded wines such as Mateus rosé, created by Sogrape in 1942 (the company was founded in the same year) and similar products such as the Lancers produced by Fonseca, now make up more than 40% of the total exports of wine, and have long since become more important in the market than the traditional favourites. The wine industry is important to the economy, with around 15% of the population dependent on the industry in some form. The climate is ideal for viticulture, the northern region, where most of the wine is grown, has long, pleasant summers and ample rainfall. The soils are mostly granite and slate. Portugal is also known as the ”country of 500 indigenous grape varieties”, many of which used to be planted as a vineyard blend. Only since the 1980’s have the efforts to improve quality, as well as pressure from the EU, brought about a change to planting single varieties in any particular vineyard. The most important red varieties are Alfrocheiro, Aragonez (Tinta Roriz), Baga, Bastardo, Castelão Francês (Periquita, Santarém), Sousao (Vinhao), Tinta Barroca, Touriga FrancêsTouriga (the most widely planted variety, with more than 25% of the total area), Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira Preta (Tinta Amarela). The most important white varieties are Alvarinho, Arinto, Azal, Encruzado, Esgana Cao, Fernão Pires (Maria Gomes), Loureiro Blanco and Trajadura. Apart from wine itself, cork is another extremely important export item. Portugal is by far the biggest producer worldwide, supplying over 50% of the total produced, around half of this is produced in the Alentejo province. Maturation resp. the age of a wine are defined by various terms such as verde (not matured), maduro (old, or matured in barrel), Reserva (red wines three years old, of which one year in bottle, white wines one year old, of which six months in bottle), Garrafeira (as for Reserva, plus a higher alcohol content) and Velho (red wines three years old, white wines two years old). Doce or adamado means sweet (see there for all other terms). The various classifications of wine quality are aligned with the EU wine laws. The individual designations are: Vinho leve: a light wine with a low alcohol content (leve = light). These are wines that fail to reach the minimum alcohol content prescribed in the inidvidual regions. If they have a minimum alcohol content of 9% vol, they may be sold as table wine (vinho de mesa), in this case the term „vinho leve” must be stated on the label. Vinho de mesa (VdM): a table wine. Vinho regional (VR): the lowest level of the three-level appellation system applies to country wines. It corresponds with vin de pays in France. These wines have a very special importance. In contrast to the position in many other countries, this is not a basic quality level inserted between table and quality wines. Wines with this designation are produced, for example, when an estate is located outside a defined DOC area, or when varieties other than the permitted varieties have been used. This is in line with Portuguese tradition of using grapes from other regions, or from several regions. There are many cases in which the best wine of a producer may be labelled as a VR wine, with the DOC-labelled wines representing the second level of quality. This approach can be compared to that of the Super-Tuscans in Italy. There are eight large VR regions, the boundaries of which are frequently identical with thos of the regions or DOC’s. Indicacão de proveniencia regulamentada (IPR): This quality level was introduced when Portugal joined the EU, and corresponds to VDQS in France or IGT in Italy. There are around a dozen such regions (see below). Denominacão de origem controlada (DOC): This is the highest level of quality, it includes quality wines from protected, defined areas of origin, and corresponds with DOC in Italy, DO in Spain and AOC in France. The areas, divided into regions: Alentejo (DOC) * Alentejano (VR) * Borba (sub-region) * Evora (sub-region) * Granja-Amareleja (sub-region) * Moura (sub-region) * Portalegre (sub-region) * Redondo (sub-region) * Reguengos (sub-region) * Vidigueira (sub-region) Algarve (VR) * Lagoa (DOC) * Lagos (DOC) * Portimão (DOC) * Tavira (DOC) Azoren (IPR) * Biscoitos (IPR) * Graciosa (IPR) * Pico (IPR) Beiras (VR) * Bairrada (DOC) * Beira Interior (DOC) * Dão (DOC) * Lafões (IPR) * Távora-Varosa (DOC) Douro (DOC) * Porto e Douro (DOC for port wine) Estremadura (VR) * Alenquer (DOC) * Arruda (DOC) * Bucelas (DOC) * Carcavelos (DOC) * Cartaxo (IPR) * Colares (DOC) * Lourinhã (DOC) * Òbidos (DOC) * Torres Vedras (DOC) Madeira (DOC) Ribatejo (DOC) * Cartaxo (IPR) * Ribatejana (VR) Terras do Sado (VR) * Arrábida (IPR) * Palmela (DOC) * Setúbal (DOC) Trás-os-Montes (VR) * Chaves (IPR) * Planalto-Mirandês (IPR) * Valpacos (IPR) * Varosa (IPR) Vinho Verde (DOC) * Rios do Minho (VR)

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