History of Portuguese Wine

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The history of Portuguese wine has been influenced by Portugal's relative isolationism in the world's wine market, with the one notable exception of its relationship with the British. While wine has been made in Portugal (and neighboring Spain) since at least 2000 BC when the Tartessians planted vines in the Sado and Tagus valleys. By the 10th century BC, the Phoenicians had arrived and introduced new grape varieties and winemaking techniques to the area. Up until this point, viticulture was mostly centered around the southern coastal areas of Portugal. In later centuries, the Ancient Greeks, Celts and Romans would do much to spread viticulture and winemaking further north.

Portuguese wines were first shipped to England in the 12th century from the Entre Douro e Minho region (which today includes modern Portuguese wine regions such as the Douro and Vinho Verde). In 1386, Portugal and England signed the Treaty of Windsor which fostered close diplomatic relations between the two countries and opened the door for extensive trade opportunities. The 1703 Methuen Treaty furthered advanced English economic interest in Portugal by reducing tariffs and give Portuguese wines preferential treatment in the British wine market over French wines. Around this time, the fortified wine known as Port was increasing in popularity in Britain. The lucrative trade in Port prompted the Portuguese authorities to establish one of the world's first protected designation of origin when Sebastiëo José de Carvalho e Melo, Marquis of Pombal established boundaries and regulations for the production of authentic Port from the Douro in 1756.

For centuries afterwards, Portuguese wines came to be associated with Port (and to some extent Madeira which was a popular drink of British colonies across the globe, such as the American colonies.) In the mid-to-late 20th century, sweet, slightly sparkling rosé brands from Portugal (Mateus and Lancers being the most notable) became immensely popular across the globe-with the British wine market again leading the way. In the mid-1980s, Portugal's introduction to the European Union brought a flood of financing and grants to the stagnant Portuguese wine industry. These new investments paved the way for upgrades in winemaking technology and facilities. Renewed interest in the abundance of unique Portuguese wine grape varieties shifted focus to more premium wine production with a portfolio of unique dry red and white wines being marketed on a global scale.


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