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Diving into Great Portuguese Wineries

Story by Maria Kruk

Vinho Verde cc Image courtesy of Lanier67 on FlickrThe History of wine-making in Portugal has roots in the period of the first millenium BC. The civilization known as Tartessos is the first that we know of who made wine here.

Abundant historical heritage is not the only thing to recommend Portuguese wineries though as the most promising and incredible tourist attraction in this beautiful corner of Europe. The wines themselves are the greatest argument.

It is nearly impossible not to try some local wines while paying a visit to Porto, Setúbal, Braga, Algarve and many other Portuguese cities alongside exploring urban architecture, both modern and antique. Specific tours round Portuguese major wineries give an opportunity to get acquainted with the most long-standing and progressive national industry. Degustation of Portuguese wines is one of top 10 things to do while on a trip to the country.

To start with, it is appropriate to underline the city of Porto, which gave the name to one of the most distributed and presentable wines in the world – port wine. The story of this drink might be observed in the related museum (Museu do Vinho do Porto), established in Alto Douro – the first proclaimed wine-making area with legally limited borders (since the 17th century). Another place to visit is Vila Nova de Gaia in Porto’s neighborhood, where cellars for port wine storage have been used for almost 300 years. In order to try some local drinks one should visit Solar do Vinho do Porto (“Port Wine Castle”), which is famous for wine evenings and exhibitions. Its port wine list counts nearly 200 items from different parts of Portugal. The prices vary from 1 to 70 euro for a glass.

Barrels at the Wiese and Krohn Warehouse in Vila Nova de Gaia cc Image courtesy of Ken and Nyetta on FlickrEvora is the city of old-fashioned architecture, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. However, few people aware of its wine-making history. Antique housings, distributed all over the city, were initially engaged in production of the most elite wines in the country. To date they provide wine drinks, awarded with multiple notable prizes. The secrets of Evora wines are preserved in numerous cellars with the smell of oak barrels and a fragrant grape wine.

Besides the magnificence of Middle Ages sites, Setubal is also well-known wine-making area. In particular, Muscatel de Setubal has received both the national and international recognition. Its history dates back to 1514, when it was highly appreciated by Manuel I, the King of Portugal and the Algarves. The Muscatel production features 80 years of storage in Setubal cellars, during which wine slowly turns into honey.

It is impossible not to admit the specific taste of Madeira wines, the production of which was encouraged by sailors; they added some brandy in local wines to overcome the long sea voyages and, eventually, the development of Madeira wines industry started. In the 16th century this drink became especially popular in the North-American colonies, exported there mainly from Funchal. Nowadays there are about 30 sorts of Madeira wine, the history of which is enclosed in Madeira Wine Institute and Museum. The biggest wine yards and wineries are located in the western part of island, accompanied by the related wine restaurants.

Braga, its Guimarães area specifically, is a place where green wines might be tried. Here they are known as “vinhos verdes” due to a sour taste and green areas of grape plantations. In fact, there are both red and white sorts, which are gladly offered in the old homesteads of Braga, as well as in the local restaurants.

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