Wine Project Portugal

September 19, 2020

The plentiful history of Portugal is closely integrated with the splendid wines of that oldest historical region. Wine had been already very popular in that country since XX century b.c., and it was closely dealing with the name of its ancient inhabitants, named Tartessians who now are suggested to have worked the soils of their first vineyards in place named Tagus.

Centuries later, the Phoenicians presented the new grape varieties from the Middle East and improved the old techniques of winemaking which was primarily concentrated on the southern costs of Portugal. Later viticulture practices were developed by other ancient nations such are the Greeks and Romans who spreaded winemaking to the rest parts of the country. The archeologists of nowadays have found the great amount of their traces on the Peninsula of Iberia such are the pieces of Greek vases used to dissolve wine by the water. Romans used the word “Lusitania” after Lusus, the son of the wine’s god Bacchus, to call Portugal. They also intensively expanded the viticulture in their Portuguese locations. By the end of Roman rule the vineyards were scattered everywhere in places of northern and central regions such as Douro.

After the Roman Empire’s falling of in the Vth century, the local barbarian tribes continued to maintain the existing practices of viticulture.

The Portugal's isolationism in the world's wine trade affected to the subsequent recorded history of wine industry in that country. Portugal’s table wines had already been widely famous since the middle of the XVIIth century, especially in England. Firstly it was delivered to England in the XIIth century by ships, and the place of its origin had been called Douro e Minho region.

Then, in 1386 the Treaty of Windsor had been signed and the close diplomatic relations were established to control the trade policies between two countries. In 1703 Portuguese wines were allowed to be preferential product over the French ones in the wine import of Great Britain – the Methuen Treaty was concluded. That period was marked the increasing popularity of the fortified wine which presently known as Port. For years later all the Portuguese beverages became to be associated with Port and Madeira as the most popular drinks of British settlements.

In the late XIXth century the tragedy happened: the phylloxera epidemic destroyed vineyards across all Europe. Many wine regions never got it over and afterwards were kept as a place for other agricultural crops. Those who did recovered turn to plenteous varieties of grapes and French hybrids. Since the wine produced from these kinds was not excellent the wine industry of Portugal gradually decreased it's presence on the foreign markets.

Long after that in XXth century Portuguese sweet wine brands such Mateus and Lancers became incredibly reputed around the world.

In the 1980s, the Portuguese wine industry got the investments dealing with the Portugal's introduction to the EU which helped unique winemaking methods and facilities to get better and well steady. Since that time the interest to the gorgeous wine grape varieties has been reviving the entire industry and magnificent dry red and white wines has been marketed on a worldwide scene.

The most significant Portuguese winemaking regions are the following: Minho, Transmontano, Duriense, Terras De Císter, Terras Da Beira, Beira Atlântico, Terras Do Dão, Lisboa, Tejo, Setúbal, Alentejo, Algarve, Madeira, and the Azores. There are the next landscaping methods: the traditional walled terraces, the platforms, and the vertical planting.

The traditional terraces are usually supported by dry walls of stone, and it is the oldest way of viticultural practices. It was made by hand and then filled by the fertile soil which was brought up by the people from the bank of the river. As consequence the terraces are very narrow and contain just one or two rows of vines. They were formed like the steps of the pyramids and create one of the most haunting and dramatic view of the Portugal, so that it was included in the wWorld Heritage list of UNO. By the beginning of the XXIst century the building of those structures had become exorbitant, and no longer exists.

The platforms are called in Portuguese “patamares”, and it is much more modern than the terraces. They look like the giant contour lines if you watch at it by aircraft. It is separated by tall banks. This landscaping method became widely accepted in the 1980’s during the redeveloping of the Douro vineyards after the impact of phylloxera of the 1870s. It is quite low-cost and rapid way but still dangerous for environment because of its soil erosion.

The vertical planting is also called “vinha ao alto” by Portuguese winemakers. This type of terrace can be replaced by vertical rows of vines, and it was method improved in last time. This practice of viticulture has advantages which are expressed in better drainage, better leaf canopy exposure, and avoidance of soil erosion.

In Portugal there are more than 200 indigenous varieties of wine grapes, more than in any other country. The most serious characteristics of the most common types of grapes are considered below.

White wines are usually produced from such varieties of grapes like:

  • antao vaz (this citrusy, acidic variety is widely used in Alentejo);
  • alvarinho (this high quality grape is very popular in the Minho, Alentejo, Bairrada, Setúbal and in general in nothern Portugal, and makes crisp, aromatic and sparkling drinks with notes of citrus, peach, or apple);
  • arinto (well known in northern and central regions of the land, it is a product for dry, tangy wines);
  • boal (including five kinds of this grape, it is the most favorite in Madeira);
  • codega (also called “roupeiro”, it is a honey flavored grape used to produce low acidity drinks);
  • encruzado (high alcoholic white grape which met very often in the Dão);
  • fernão pires (in Bairrada it is called “Maria Gomez”; also it is widely spreaded in Douro, Setúbal, Alentejo and other regions; this versatile variety produces aromatic wines with floral flavors);
  • loureiro (one of the most fragrant; it is used to make Vinho Verde which we will consider below);
  • malvasia fina (high yielding aromatic white grape used all over Portugal to make white port);
  • perrum (one of the most favorite white grapes of the Alentejo and Algarve regions);
  • rabigato (also called “Ewe´s Tail” or “Rabo d´Ovelha”, high yielding grape of great popularity);
  • sercial (the main grape used in Madeira fortified wines producing);
  • verdelho (using to make soft, savory full-flavored dry table wines).

The superb selection of Portugal red grapes are introduced by the next varieties:

  • aragonez (also known as “tinta roriz” in northern Portugal; it is the one of the principal Douro grapes for its rich tannins and aromatic, raspberry, red-fruit flavor);
  • alfrocheiro (a very promising variety for its deep-colored, well-balanced drinks; it is very popular in Dao);
  • baga (this high quality variety used for wines in Bairrada, Alentejo and Ribatejo);
  • bastardo (this grape with funny name grown in the Douro and also Dao);
  • castelão (one of the most widely known variety in the south where it is often called “periquita” or “Joao do Santarem”; it creates fleshy, fruity, sometimes gamey red wines);
  • moreto (this blender grape is famous all over Portugal, but not used in single varietal wines);
  • ramisco (it’s very tannic and the the main grape in Colares region);
  • tinta barroca (one of the most ancient kind of grape, it is grown in the Douro for centuries and primarily originates from South Africa);
  • touriga francesa (the most significant variety in the Douro, it is characterized by its powerful bouquet);
  • touriga nacional (this noble grape is appreciated all over the Portugal for the high quality of its red wines with high concentration of color, extract, sweetness, and fragrance);
  • trincadeira (also called “tinta amarela” and “castelão frances”; grown in the Douro, Ribatejo, Estremadura and also Alentejo; it is one of the most widespread variety producing flavorful, dry reds with blackcurrant fruit flavors and herbaceous, floral aromas).

Every year “Wine Enthusiast's” (US wine magazine) elects the best wines with retail prices up to $15. The Portugal was the third country with the most remarkable brands of wines in the list (behind the USA and France brands). The best Portuguese wine in the Top-2013 was the Vinho Verde Aveleda 2012. It got the honorable second place, and the other outstanding, glorious wines are originally belongs to such regions of Portugal like Tejo, Alentejo, Bairrada, Setúbal and Douro.

Vinho Verde originates from historic Minho province in the north of the country. Vinho Verde means “green wine” or “young wine”. It may be red, white or rose. Traditionally, the Vinhos Verdes wines are light and fresh, and sometimes it can be sparkling. The white Vinho Verde usually is very fresh, due to its natural acidity, with fruity (lemon or strawberry) and floral flavor, 8.5-11% alcohol. It is produced of such grape varieties like are Loureiro, Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso,or Azal. The red kinds always are deep red colored and tannic, and are preferably made from Vinhão, Borraçal and Amaral grape varieties.

The two most successful white wine varieties for that noble drink are Alvarinho and Loureiro.

Loureiro (or “Loureiro”, or “Loureiro Blanco”) is also well known under the synonyms Arinto, Branco Redondo, Branco Redondos, Dorado, Dourada, Dourado, False Pedro, Gallego Dourado, Loeireiro Blanco, Loureiro, Loureiro Blanco, Marques, Marquez, and Rutherglen Pedro. The name of this variety means “laurel” or “bay”.

This grape is cultivated in northeast of Iberian Peninsula. The aroma of Loureiro wines is associated with the flavors of laurel, orange, acacia, lime flowers, and apple and peachy fruits. Loureiro wines usually have refreshing taste and well-balanced acidity. This variety is a very vigorous, high-yielding, and it has been recognized as “noble” not so long time ago.

To better recognize the Portuguese wine, it is important to learn more about the modern wine law and controlling organizations of that industry.

In 1986 the “Instituto da Vinha e do Vinho, I.P.” (“Vine and Wine Institute”) replaced “Junta Nacional do Vinho” (“National Wine Board”). It was aimed to adjust the organization of the sector to the principles and rules of the Community law of the European Economic Community. In present days it coordinates, controls, makes the audit of the quality certification system and supervises the promotion of the wine products.

In the process of creating the wine sector the “Regional Wine Commission” was established in every region of the country. It regulates production and trade of wine products by the principles of objectivity, impartiality and independence.

The Certifying Bodies were created by the Minister of Agriculture to rule the organizational structure of winemaking industry. It is called to control the industry, to monitor the production and trade, and to certify wine products entitled to the respective Designation of Origin and/or Geographical Indication (DO/GI standards).

European legislation has required the creation of the concept of “Denominação de Origem Controlada” (“Protected Designation of Origin”) and the qualitative classification of wines through the categories “VQPRD” (“Quality Wine Produced in a Specific Region”), “Vinho Regional” (“Regional Wine”) and “Vinho de Mesa” (“Table Wine”).

In 2004 a fundamental institutional reform took place according to the European law recent review (Decree-Law №212/2004 of 23rd August). This modern Portuguese law now regulates DO/GI standards used in the wine sector products, in according to its recognition, protection, control and certification.