Azores ad­ven­tures

Re­newed im­pe­tus from a younger gen­er­a­tion in the Azores has added new energy to the tra­di­tional ways in this re­mote out­post of the Por­tuguese wine in­dus­try, as Sarah Ahmed re­ports

Decanter - - CONTENTS -

The vol­canic wine styles of Por­tu­gal’s At­lantic out­post will ex­cite those wine lovers look­ing for some­thing new and ex­cit­ing, says Sarah Ahmed

ThREE huN­DRED Thou­sAND years ago, 1,500km west of the Euro­pean con­ti­nent, ex­plo­sive magma from the At­lantic ocean bed gave vi­o­lent birth to Por­tu­gal’s high­est moun­tain, Monte do Pico (2,351m). To­day, seis­mic changes of a dif­fer­ent or­der are shak­ing up Pico, the youngest of nine Azorean is­lands forged from lava flow.

In the years since my orig­i­nal, eye-open­ing visit in 2014, the seeds of a revo­lu­tion sown by Fita Preta’s An­tónio Maçanita – then a charis­matic Alen­tejo-based wine­maker and con­sul­tant, now co-founder of Azores Wine Co – have sprouted vi­brant green shoots. First, a mind-bog­glingly am­bi­tious re­nais­sance of Pico’s vine­yards. sec­ond, a flurry of the pen­e­trat­ingly dry, brisk, über-min­eral, salt-flecked white wines which, two years ago, prompted me to won­der whether Pico might be the san­torini of Por­tu­gal (with that vol­canic Greek is­land’s pop­u­lar Assyr­tiko grape in mind).

Top wines produced on the is­land show­case two native grapes – Arinto dos Açores (thrilling zesty drive) and Ter­ran­tez do Pico (earth­ier, herbal, more tex­tu­ral) – and, new re­search sug­gests, their (fruitier) par­ent Verdelho, whose pres­ence was re­ported in the Azores 200 years ear­lier than in Madeira.

They are worlds apart from the historic vin­hos licorosos – dry to fully sweet, nutty, hon­eyed, saltily per­sis­tent liqueur wines (tra­di­tion­ally un­for­ti­fied), a trickle of which are still made from these scarce Vi­tis vinifera grapes on Pico, Gra­ciosa and Ter­ceira is­lands, where they en­joy top-tier Pro­tected Des­ig­na­tion of ori­gin sta­tus. or the cor­rect if unin­spir­ing wines made from lo­cal, main­land Por­tuguese and French va­ri­eties, which paved the way for the Vinho Re­gional Azores clas­si­fi­ca­tion in 2004. Most of all, the rus­tic vinho de con­sumo/ vinho de cheiro – lo­cal ta­ble wines made from Amer­i­can grapes.

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