Azores Viticulture

The wine region Azores with the DOC Biscoitos, Garciosa and Pico and the Vinho Regional Açores
Friday, 19 May 2017 | Economy

Buffeted by the mid-Atlantic weather, on the same latitude as Lisbon, this little group of islands has a spectacular variety of scenery. From lush, green countryside and lakes to volcanic peaks caverns, sulphur pits and lava flows. The islands’ historic vineyards are considered to be so special that a vineyard area on the island of Pico has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What makes these vineyards so special? Most vines on the Azores are grown within currais, a small dry stonewall enclosure made of black volcanic rock. Vines are planted in holes and cracks in the lava flows, and the walls protect the vines from Atlantic winds and salt spray. The vineyards of Pico are a particularly stunning example.
Vines have been planted in this way since the early 16th century, when the islands were a port of call for discoverers on their way to the New World. By the 18th century, the sweet, fortified Azores wines were famous and prized.
But vine diseases in the 19th century caused many vineyards to be abandoned or replanted with hybrid vines. It was not until the 1980’s and 1990’s that Verdelho and other classic grape varieties began to be more widely replanted. Today, three of the islands produce wine. Much of the island of Graciosa has DOC status for their lighter style of white wines, vinified at the local co-operative. There are two other DOC’s for fortified wines; in some coastal areas of the island of Pico and in Biscoitos, a small area in the north of Terceira. A quantity of good quality, unfortified IGP Açores are produced on both Pico and Terceira, made, by a couple of small-scale private producers, and in Pico by the co-operative. Most wines are white, and thanks to the damp, temperate climate, are fresh in style. Vinho de cheiro, ‘scented wine’ made from hybrids, is drunk by locals and by nostalgic former residents in North America.

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