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  • Post published:31/10/2021
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Despite its relatively small size, Portugal remains one of the world’s biggest exporters of wine. Portuguese vineyards are gaining an ever-growing reputation across the world. While port wine still takes center stage, winemakers in this part of the world are branching out. They are now growing a vast range of grape varieties to boast an eclectic portfolio of exports.

There are two wine-producing sites in Portugal which feature on UNESCO’s World Heritage List – Alto Douro and the Pico Island Vineyard. Both of these areas hold great historical significance. The vineyards are well worth a visit if you get the chance.

Guest post by Hubert Day

Portuguese Vineyards Douro Valley
Portuguese Vineyards in Douro Valley (photo from Deposit Photos)

Portuguese Vineyards in Alto Douro

Why visit the Portuguese Vineyards in Alto Douro?

Undisputedly the most famous wine region in the country, Alto Douro is a must-visit for any tourist – wine enthusiast or not. The vineyards which line the vast, steep hills stretch for 24,600 hectares, creating a truly breathtaking landscape.

This particular area is probably one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world. Records suggest that landholders have been making wine here for some 2,000 years. What’s more, Douro is the oldest official wine region anywhere in the world, earning its status and gaining protection in 1756.

With stunning wine and mesmerizing views both in plentiful supply, Alto Douro makes for the perfect day trip from the city of Porto. From seeing how the region’s world-famous port is produced to taking in the sights from one of the many viewpoints in this area, a trip to northern Portugal truly isn’t complete without a visit to this wine region.

How to get to Alto Douro

Whilst the ride will take some two and a half hours to complete, the train journey from Porto to Alto Douro is one of the most scenic anywhere in the country. Alternatively, if you rent a car, your journey from Porto will be much quicker though less scenic. In addition, the train option allows you to try all the wine you want in the surrounding area.

What’s produced here?

The Douro is at the heart of Portugal’s port wine production, and it remains the area’s most common export. The conditions found here are conducive to port production. The location and climate create the unique flavor associated with this type of wine. However, Douro is also well known for its production of unfortified wines, with varieties of red, white, and even rosé being made here.

The Pico Island Vineyard Culture

Why Visit Pico Island

Located over 900 nautical miles west of Lisbon, Pico is the second-largest island in the Azores. It is also home to one of the most unique wine regions in the world.

It’s something of a miracle that early settlers at Pico were able to grow anything in what is a very challenging environment. The landscape has been heavily shaped by the activity of Mount Pico, a volcano that last erupted in 1720.

There are a few dedicated museums located in some of the larger growing regions on the island. There, you can find out more about the production process, the history of the area, and even enjoy a few tastings.

One of the vineyards on Pico Island in the Azores
Pico Island Azores vineyard protected by lava stone (Photo from Deposit Photos)

Getting to Pico Island

Due to the remote location of the island, there are only two ways to reach Pico – by sea, or by air. There is a ferry service operating between the main islands of the Azores, namely São Jorge and Faial.

However, if traveling from the mainland, the easiest way to access the island is by air, with direct flights connecting Lisbon and Pico. The airport on Pico island is about 8km east of the main town of Madalena and close to the main vines-growing area.

Portuguese Vineyards on Pico Island

Instead of growing in the traditional way (upright against trellises), the vines here run along the ground. Sprawling rows of black stone walls frame them to shield the vines from wind and seawater. I saw the same in the Geria region on Lanzarote island, another volcanic area.

The production here started in the 15th century. Soon, the region became synonymous with creating fortified wine, particularly from the Verdelho grape. These traditional grapes still feature heavily in the production process on Pico. You will also find plenty of other varieties, such as the Arinto grape typically found in white blends.

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