Portugal's island of Madeira has long been home to one of the world's most recognizable and widely loved fortified wines. Madeira wine was first produced by sailors, who added grape spirits to the wines of Madeira in order to preserve them better on long journeys. Before long, people all over Europe had developed a taste for this highly aromatic, strongly flavored fortified wines, and the wine industry of the small Portuguese island flourished and grew from strength to strength. Madeira is an island highly suited to wine production and vineyard cultivation, with beautiful year round sunshine, and a tropical oceanic climate which allows the grape varietals which grow there to ripen slowly and fully. Add to this a highly fertile volcanic set of soils, and you have viticultural magic which has lasted throughout the centuries, and will no doubt continue to thrive in the future.
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.