No longer a wartime tipple, these days the English are more likely to see port as a popular last minute Christmas gift, to be ordered online along with slabs of stilton cheese.
However, Portuguese wine is about much more than port. Although Portugal has produced dry red and white wines for centuries, it is only recently that the country’s intenational reputation for dry wines has started to eclipse that of port. Portugal is currently benefiting from a modernisation program which has encouraged the adoption of modern grape cultivation and winemaking techniques – including gentle crushing, stalk removal and temperature control. Portugal’s “Viticultural Strategy for the Future” is also overseeing the reorganisation of thousands of tiny vineyards into larger estates and Quintas (boutique wineries). In addition to making Portugal’s wine industry less labour intensive, these reforms are enabling winemakers to produce sustainable quantities of quality wines.
Portugal has developed a reputation for making wines made from indigenous grape varieties, and the country has largely resisted the trend elsewhere to replace local varieties with international ones such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The poster child of Portuguese wine, Touriga Nacional, continues to be one of the main grapes used in the production of port. However, in some regions – especially the Douro and Dão – Touriga Nacional is also used to produce some of the dry red wines for which Portugal is gaining such great recognition.
Along with its wine, Portugal’s importance on the global wine map is influenced by its role as major producer of cork, used for bottling wine. Made from the bark of cork trees (pictured), Portugal is responsible for over 60% of the global cork harvest.
I hope you enjoy this week’s visit to the winelands of Portugal. Next week we’re in Italy!