Madeira & Pico Islands, Portugal
Madeira and Pico Islands in Portugal are two distinct wine regions known for their unique styles of fortified and volcanic wines, respectively.
Regional History & Terroir: Madeira has a long history of winemaking dating back to the 15th century. The island's volcanic soil, steep terraced vineyards, and subtropical climate influenced by the Atlantic Ocean create ideal conditions for growing grapes. The vineyards are often situated on terraces called "poios," providing optimal sun exposure and drainage.
Typical Grape Varietals: Madeira wines are primarily made from four main grape varietals: Tinta Negra Mole, Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, and Malvasia (also known as Malmsey). These varietals produce different styles of fortified wines ranging from dry to sweet, with varying levels of acidity and flavors.
Regional Wine Styles: Madeira wines are known for their unique production process called "estufagem," which involves heating the wines to oxidize and age them. This results in complex flavors, including notes of caramel, nuts, dried fruits, and a characteristic tanginess. Madeira wines are often enjoyed as aperitifs, dessert wines, or used in cooking.
Regional History & Terroir: Pico Island is part of the Azores archipelago and is known for its volcanic landscape. The island's vineyards, known as "currais," are built using basalt stone walls to protect the grapevines from the strong ocean winds. The volcanic soil, rich in minerals, contributes to the unique character of the wines.
Typical Grape Varietals: The main grape varietal grown on Pico Island is Verdelho, a white grape that thrives in the volcanic soil and maritime climate. Verdelho wines from Pico are dry, crisp, and aromatic, often exhibiting citrus flavors and a mineral-driven profile.
Regional Wine Styles: Pico Island is renowned for its dry white wines made from Verdelho, showcasing the island's volcanic terroir. These wines have a refreshing acidity, vibrant fruit flavors, and a distinct saline note. Pico also produces small quantities of red wines, mainly from the Alicante Bouschet grape varietal.
Both Madeira and Pico Islands offer unique wine experiences, with Madeira known for its centuries-old tradition of fortified wines and Pico renowned for its volcanic terroir and crisp Verdelho wines. These regions showcase the diversity and quality of Portuguese wines, captivating wine enthusiasts with their distinct characteristics.