The island of Madeira has been home to one of the world's most distinctive and widely drank fortified wines for centuries. Back in the 16th and 17th centuries, Portugal was a vastly important nation, keen on discovering the world. Madeira acted as a useful and strategically important port, off the north west coast of Africa, and proved to be an ideal location for viticulture. Indeed, before long the Portuguese were planting hundreds of vineyards, and making the most of the blazing sunshine and mineral rich volcanic soils found all over the island. Grape varietals such as Malvasia and Sercial flourished in the almost-tropical climate, and a wine industry was born which prevails and remains strong to this day, albeit one which is primarily based on a fortified wine developed by the sailors of antiquity.
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.