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March 6, 2009

Wine News From Portugal

By Pardhasaradhi Gonuguntla

With wine sales dipping just 2% in the U.S. last quarter many enthusiasts seek greater value for their money. Enter Portuguese wines: Portuguese table wines ranked very highly in end-of-the-year reviews in top wine magazines. Over the past three years, sales of Portuguese table wines have increased 40 percent and red wines grew by 125 percent.

Eight Portuguese wines were listed in Wine Enthusiast’s 2008 “100 Best Buys.” Four of those wines scored 90 or above. Four of Portugal’s wines were also listed in Wine Spectator’s “Top 100” and all of them scored 90 or above.

Madeira and Port wines may be the best-known wines today from Portugal, but they are certainly not alone. Having steadily invested in its wine making industry for the past 20 years, by adding modern equipment, careful cultivation and improving on techniques today, Portugal is making the best wines in its long history. And, 8 percent of Portugal’s landscape is given over to vineyards today and the result is a wide variety of quality wines, each with their own personality.

Two of Portugal’s wine-producing regions are designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. They are the Douro Valley Wine Region as well as the Pico Island Wine Region in the Azores Islands.

From the plains of the Alentejo towards the south, to the northern valleys of the rivers Dao and Douro, wine country is set among stunning landscapes and are easily toured by car or on bicycle. In the Minho region, the grapes used for the vinho verde wines grow on trellises. The vineyards of the Douro region, the oldest demarcated region in the world and birthplace of Port wine, run in a series of terraces. During the harvest here, throughout the month of September, men can be seen walking the vineyards carrying baskets of grapes, while the women are helping and singing traditional songs as they work or celebrate.

In Centro de Portugal region, the wine routes run through small towns, each steeped with history. Along the River Tejo, the Ribatejo wine region is full of fertile fields that are irrigated when the river here bursts its banks

In the Madeira Islands, September brings grape harvest celebrations and the Madeira Wine Festival. Madeira is one of the best-known wines and first gained popularity among the original European colonists in the United States.

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