Blog Gourmet MOUNTAINS & WINE IN PORTUGAL
Wine grapes have been cultivated in what is now Portugal for more than 4,000 years. The Tartessos, an indigenous people from the south of the Iberian Peninsula, produced wine as early as 2,000 years B.C. Phoenicians, Greeks and Celts helped to expand the culture of vines and the art of winemaking with the new varietals and technology they brought with them. They also helped promote wine export from the region to areas around the Mediterranean. Later, with the expansion of the Roman Empire to Iberia, viticulture and winemaking was improved significantly in order to supply the demand from Rome.
Since those long ago years, vineyards and wine continue to be very important for the people and the economy of Portugal. The wine sector comprises an important share of Portuguese agriculture and commercial exchanges. Portugal is 11th in the world ranking of wine producing countries, and 8th in wine exporting countries (in value, 9th in volume). The wine sector contributes to 2.1% of GDP and 11% to the gross added value (GVA) of the agro-industry sector in Portugal.
Mountains strongly mark both the geography of Portugal and its wines. Near 40% of the surface of mainland Portugal is mountainous, in particular in the northern and central parts of the country. In Madeira and the Azores, mountains are even more predominant due to the volcanic origin of these Atlantic islands (the highest point in Portugal is Pico Mountain at 2351 m a.s.l. in the Azores).
The dimension, altitude, steepness, roughness and orientation of mountain ranges affect climatic, biological and socio-economic patterns and processes, as well as the geography of viticulture and winemaking. Wine regions in northern and central Portugal are distributed and characterized according to the temperature and moisture patterns governed by Portugal’s topography.
This diversity of ecological conditions corresponds with a high diversity of indigenous varietals (more than 250 in the country) and types of wine (14 major wine regions). Some of the most mountainous wine regions are “Dão”, “Beira Interior”, “Tavora-Varosa”, and many sub regions of the “Vinho Verde” and “Trás-os-Montes” regions. The best known and possibly the most mountainous viticulture region in Portugal, however, is the Douro Region.
The Douro wine region is located in northern Portugal along the Douro River Valley. The appellation system of the Douro region, established in 1756, is one of the oldest in the world. Since 2001, the Alto Douro Wine Region is part of the UNESCO World Heritage list due to the priceless value of this cultural landscape.
Slightly less than half of the production in this region is dedicated to port wine, whereas the other half is mostly dedicated to Douro Protected Designation of Origin wines. However, all of the mountainous wine regions produce top quality wines that are unique due to the specific combination of environmental and technological factors. They also qualify as Mountain Viticulture regions. According to the Centre for the Research, Study and Advancement of Mountain Viticulture (CERVIM), mountain viticulture regions are defined by terrain with gradients over 30%, elevations above 500 m a.s.l., or viticultural systems characterized by terraces and wide, shallow ledges.
Wine aficionados will be excited to learn that Mountains 2016 will take place within easy reach of the heart of the Douro region. An international event that aims to promote sustainable development in mountains that is based on science, knowledge and innovation, Mountains 2016 will take place in Bragança, Portugal, on October 3 to 7. Mountain viticulture and wine will play a central role in both of the two events that constitute Mountains 2016, the X European Mountain Convention (EMC) and the I International Conference on Research for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions (ICRSDMR).
The focus of the EMC is adaptation to climate change in mountain areas. Mountain agriculture and products, such as viticulture and wine, will be central to both workshops and field trips. In the ICRSDMR, several symposia focused on mountain viticulture and winemaking will be organized, including “Resources, risks and values: Challenges for sustainable management in mountain viticulture”, “Valuing mountain products and landscapes” and “Mountain agriculture and agroecology”.
A field trip to the Douro region is planned, so participants will have a chance to not only experience the magnificent cultural landscape of the Douro Valley, but also to see local examples of how farmers and scientists are dealing with climate change in this sector.
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