The history of viticulture in Portugal
The Phoenicians brought the first grapevines to the area that is now Portugal. The Greeks and the Romans also subsequently cultivated vines there. Following the conquest of Portugal by the Moors, wine production came to a standstill during the Early Middle Ages. It was only after several Christian monasteries were founded that Cistercian monks revived Portuguese winemaking. King Denis of Portugal (1279–1325) was also an important influence. As part of his efforts to promote the development of agriculture, he also encouraged the cultivation of vines. The proceeds were used to construct a naval fleet, an important prerequisite for maritime trading in the years that followed.
After achieving independence in 1385, the country's trading relationships flourished, especially with England. The taxes imposed on French wines after 1693 helped boost the sale of Portuguese wines all over the world. The discovery of the Douro Valley wine region led to the birth of port wine, which today accounts for the largest slice of Portugal's wine exports. Portugal was the first country in the world to demarcate a winegrowing area for a particular product to the Douro region. This not only ensured the quality of the sought-after sweet wine, it also cut out the competition. Since then, only wines produced in the Douro Valley have been entitled to use the designation "port wine". Winegrowers suffered a major setback in the 19th century when phylloxera and mildew wiped out large tracts of vines. It was not until the 1930s that winemaking saw a gradual revival. The Carnation Revolution and Portugal's accession to the EU boosted the fortunes of its wine trade.
Employing around 15% of its population, today viticulture is an important part of the Portuguese economy. As well as port, table wines are also becoming increasingly significant. In particular, the semi-sweet Mateus Rosé has many fans around the world.
Portugal has an ideal climate for cultivating vines. The climate differs from one region to another and these differences result in a wide variety of wines. Products from vineyards in the country's interior tend to be heavier, as the hot climate produces more tannin-rich and aromatic wines. In Portugal's more northerly wine regions the Atlantic brings cool weather and much rainfall. However, the long summers provide the ideal conditions for white grapes in particular to reach full ripeness and produce fresh and light white wines.