The beautiful and sun-drenched island of Madeira, found off of the north west coast of Africa and which are part of Portugal, have long been the home to one of the world's most loved and widely drank fortified wines, named after the island itself. Madeira is a fascinating island, and one which played an important role in the discovery of the wider world, as it was a vital port between Europe and Africa, or the Americas to the west. The island has been producing wines since the 17th century, when the fortified wine it is famous for was first made, by adding grape spirits to still wines in order to stop it from turning bad on the long sea voyages. Today, the island still has a rich wine industry, helped by the almost tropical oceanic climate it enjoys, and the exceptional soils which support a wide range of grape varietals.
Benefiting from both the hot, dry Iberian climate as well as brisk Atlantic winds, Portugal is a perfectly situated country for vineyard cultivation and wine production. With a wine making history which stretches back thousands of years, it comes as little surprise that wine plays an important role in the cultural identity and practices of the country. The Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Greeks and the Romans all had a hand in forming Portugal as an important center for wine production, and over the millennia, this resulted in each region of this beautiful part of Europe producing its own distinctive wines easily identifiable and separate from neighboring Spain's. Today, the varied terroir and climate across Portugal allows a great range of wines to be made each year, from the fresh and dry Vinho Verde wines to the famous and widely drunk fortified Port wines, and many in between.