Portugal: 4000+ years of wine making

If we were able to visit Portugal 4000 years ago, we would find Phoenician seafarers colonizing the Mediterranean and planting vines as they moved through the landscape

Portuguese Fortified Wines

For centuries Portugal was geographically isolated from most of Europe and its wine-making methodology developed in its own way. With more than 300 domestic grapes at their disposal the blends were personal and focused on a local, domestic market.

In the 12th century Portuguese wine makers from the Entre Douro e Minho region (today Douro and Vinho Verde) exported their product to England in exchange for food and other products. To ensure that the big, red wines survived the trip to England they were fortified with brandy before the voyage. Legend finds that an English merchant decided to fortify the wines during fermentation, rather than after fermentation. The brandy added sweetness to the fermenting wine and so Port was “discovered.”

With the signing of the Treaty of Windsor in the 14th century Portugal and England increased trade activity. By the 18th century, the Methuen Treaty was signed and it reduced tariffs giving Portuguese wines preferential treatment in the British wine markets – over French wines.

Marquis of Pombal (1756)

Established the Douro wine region making it one of the world’s oldest established appellation…two hundred years ahead of France.

Portugal Develops First Appellation

Successful trade in Port combined with an increasing incentive to produce and sell hacked versions of Port, encouraged Portuguese authorities to initiate the world’s first protected designation of origin. Sebastiao Jose de Carvalho e Melo, Marquis of Pombal, established boundaries and regulations for the production of authentic Port from the Douro in 1756.

Port continued to be the drink of choice throughout the 19th century when phylloxera, the root louse that was destroying Bordeaux, Burgundy and other European vineyards, came to the Douro Valley. The winemakers grafted their vine to American rootstock and by 1890 most of the vineyards were replanted or not at all. Now the wineries were ready for the 20th century.

Portuguese Wines Today

The quality and variety of wines in Portugal can be attributed to noble castas, microclimates, soils and technology. Currently, the wines of Portugal are serious competitors in the international wine market. After the country joined the European Economic Community (now the EU) in 1986 the introduction of winemaking regulations and quality directives were updated to become aligned with other European countries. Financial investments have been introduced to modernize vineyards and to inform and educate a new generation of wine makers.

Wine Winners. Wine Company of the Year 2015. AdegaMae

Adegamae. Atlantic Wines

Winemakers Anselmo Mendes and Diogo Lopes are the winemakers associated with the Alves family who have created a new wine experience in Torres Vedras. Their mission: to elevate the wines of Lisbon to a level of excellence. They are betting that the combination of the proximity to the ocean, the Atlantic climate, topography, clay-limestone soils and the use of selected grapes will create a modern and original wine: AdegaMae. The wines are a tribute to the family matriarch, Manuela Alves, and the concept of Mae (mother) is their inspiration. AdegaMae covers 40 hectares of vineyards and produces 1.5 million liters of red, white and rose per year.

AdegaMae is a modern facility that uses cutting-edge technology combined with traditional wine production methods to produce award winning wines.

Tasting the Wines

At a recent wine event sponsored by AdegaMae I had the good fortune to taste the wines “created” by Mendes and Lopes. The winemakers creatively blend grapes with science, technology, and incredible palates to create splendid and memorable wines.

My Favorites:

1. Pinta Negra 2014 (White). Fernao Pire and Arinto Grapes. Vinho Regional Lisboa Classification. Mechanical harvesting, light pressing, cold settling, fermentation in stainless steel vats at controlled temperature (14-15 degrees C). Kept in stainless steel tanks for 4 months.

• Light golden hue trending to clear to the eye. To the nose a delicious aroma of ripe yellow apples, yellow raisins and just a hint of grass and grapefruit…even a suggestion of cantaloupe. Delicate and refreshing on the tongue, there are soft and slightly sour suggestions of tangy oranges producing a citrus finish. There is a refreshing acidity that pairs well with egg salad with avocado, a light cheese soufflé and steamed shrimp.

2. Dory (White). Fernao Pires, Arinto, Viosinho and Viognier Grapes. Vinho Regional (IGP Lisboa). Lightly pressed, decanted at low-temperature, fermented at 13-15 degrees C for 15 days, then batonnage on fine lees for 4 months.

• Golden honey to the eye blending to clearly white. To the nose – white flowers (think daisies and wild flowers), light citrus – especially lemons and grapefruit with minerality and hints of salty air. Slight acidity and sourness on the tongue leading to a lively and delicious finish. Pair with asparagus and chicken salad, sushi and cold steamed shrimp.

Adegamae Viosinho

3. Viosinho 2014 (White). Considered “Gran Cru” – made from vines planted in the section of vineyards with the most limestone in the soil. Viosinho grape.

• Very clear trending to an ashy blonde to the eye. Very subtle aroma to the nose suggesting yellow flowers – perhaps a rose. To the palate – bits of green grass and citrus combined with light summer blossoms freshly picked. Slight acidity creates a salty and intriguing finish. Pair with goat cheese salad and walnuts, steamed cod, sushi.

4. Dory Reserva 2014 (White). Viosinho, Chardonnay, Alvarinho and Arinto Grapes. Vihno Regional (IGP Lisboa). Destemmed, lightly pressed, cold settled, fermentation in 400 L French and American oak barrels. Batonnage for 8 months. Decant 30 minutes before serving.

Pale blonde to the eye. To the nose, hints of grass and grapefruit, suggestions of vegetables and earth combined with salty sea air. The palate finds soft acidity and gravel, fresh green apples, grapefruit, lemon and star fruit. A complex but clear and clean finish with a great desire for yet another sip. Pair with soft cheese or roasted cod.

5. Dory Reserva (Red). Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah. Barrel matured. Cork closed.

To the eye – deep ruby red. To the nose – red ripe cherries, woods and trees and forest soil; earthy richness that is deeply intense. To the palate deeply flavorful, spicy and fruit-forward; intense ripe cherries, strawberries –even plums. Strongly tannic and obviously wood aged. The complexity of the tastes lingers long and clean and deliciously on the tongue. Pair with roast beef and turkey.

What’s Next

Now is the appropriate time to explore the deliciousness that can be discovered in the AdegaMae wines from Portugal. For additional information, click here.

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