Situated off the north west coast of Africa, the island of Madeira is home to one of Portugal's best known and widely loved imports. Madeira wine has been made for centuries from the grape varietals which thrive and flourish on the island, and is the lasting evidence of the innovation shown by Portuguese and British sailors, keen to make their wine last longer on ocean voyages. Madeira is an idyllic place, and a wonderful location for viticulture. The blazing sunshine lasts almost all year long, and provides plenty of time for slow, full ripening of quality grape varietals such as Malvasia and Sercial, whilst the mineral rich and volcanic soils of the island provide the vines with all the nutrients and character they require.
Most of us are quick to associate Portugal primarily with the excellent fortified wines which come out of the Porto area, but there is much more to Portuguese viticulture than just this. Perhaps the most popular still wines the country produces are the varieties from the Vinho Verde region, which uses grapes that do not achieve high doses of sugar, meaning the wines are at their best when young and full of natural, springy fruit flavors The wines of the Douro region have undergone many transformations in their flavor and character over the centuries; once regarded as a bitter wine, the exporters experimented with fortifying the wine with brandy. After several centuries, vintners found a balance in the modern age which is at once reminiscent of Port wine, yet with the structure and character closer to other fine Portuguese wines. Thanks to the appellation system of Portugal and the strict laws governing wine production, Portuguese wines continue to maintain their reputation for quality and the distinctive characteristics they carry.