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.
Most of us are quick to associate Portugal primarily with the excellent fortified wines which come out of the Porto area, but there is much more to Portuguese viticulture than just this. Perhaps the most popular still wines the country produces are the varieties from the Vinho Verde region, which uses grapes that do not achieve high doses of sugar, meaning the wines are at their best when young and full of natural, springy fruit flavors The wines of the Douro region have undergone many transformations in their flavor and character over the centuries; once regarded as a bitter wine, the exporters experimented with fortifying the wine with brandy. After several centuries, vintners found a balance in the modern age which is at once reminiscent of Port wine, yet with the structure and character closer to other fine Portuguese wines. Thanks to the appellation system of Portugal and the strict laws governing wine production, Portuguese wines continue to maintain their reputation for quality and the distinctive characteristics they carry.