|Winemaking in Portugal
traces its roots back through the Phoenicians in around 1100 BC; to the
Carthaginians, around 250 BC; and to the Romans, around 100 BC.
After that, Portugal went through periods of Visigoth and Moor control before Christians drove them from most of the Iberian Peninsula in the twelfth century.
Vines were cultivated for wine under all these ruling powers, but it wasnt until Christians had driven the Moors out of Iberia that trade with the rest of Europe took off.
In early trade, Portugal exported wine to England in exchange for food and goods.
To ensure that Portugals big, tannic red wines survived the ship to England, they were often fortified with brand before the voyage.
According to legend, a lone enterprising English merchant decided to fortify the wine during, rather than after the fermentation.
The brandy added sweetness to the fermenting wine, and Port was born.
But Portugals perhaps greatest contribution to the wine world came when English shippers discovered that stoppers made from the bark of cork could preserve a wine for a long ocean voyage and beyond.
The discovery may have been English, but most of the worlds cork trees grow in Spain and Portugal.
To this day, Portugal is still the worlds leading producer of cork.
Unfortunately, the end of the nineteenth marked the beginning of a difficult time for Portugal.
The vineyards were especially hard hit by the phyloxxera blight, and political disruptions in the twentieth century made recovery difficult.
A bright spot came in 1916 when the world community agreed that only Portugal could legally call its wine Port and Madeira, but quality in the highly collectivized system remained generally low.
Only when Portugal was admitted to the E.U. in 1986 did winemaking begin to improve rapidly.
Today the focus in Portugal is on making quality wine and making a name for the country in the international market.