Portugal's island of Madeira, found off the north west coast of Africa, is best known for the production of Madeira wine, a rich and aromatic fortified wine which was once produced by sailors looking for ways to extend the life of the still wines they had made for their long sea voyages. Madeira wine is still made to this day on the island, where the copious vineyards which cover the more accessible parts enjoy year round sunshine, and an oceanic, tropical climate ideal for growing big, juicy and highly flavorful and aromatic grapes. The majority of grapes grown on Madeira are of the Malvasia and Sercial varietals, although a relatively wide range of grapes can be and is used in the production of dry or sweet Madeira wine.
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.