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.
Portugal has been an important center for wine production ever since the Phoenicians and Carthaginians discovered that the many native grape varietals that grow in the country could be cultivated for making excellent wines. After all, Portugal has something of an ideal wine producing climate and terrain; lush green valleys, dry, rocky mountainsides and extremely fertile soil helped by long, hot summers and Atlantic winds. Today, such a climate and range of terroir produces an impressive variety of wines, with the best wines said to be coming out of the Douro region, the Alentejo and the Colares region near Lisbon. Portugal has an appellation system two hundred years older than France's, and much effort is made by regulating bodies to ensure that the quality of the country's produce remains high, and the wines remain representative of the regions they are grown in.