WINE & DINE: Portugal: Uniqueness and ‘Somewhereness’

Mar 22, 2020

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Portugal is unique in the wine world. In the face of the homogeneity, Portugal has never lost its personality or individuality. To borrow a term from Matt Kramer, the famous American wine writer, Portuguese wines offer a sense of “somewhereness.” Kramer likens “somewhereness” to terroir — the concept that wines are reflections of their place, which from a broader point of view includes the effects of culture and history of the region and its people.

Few wine countries exude “somewhereness” like Portugal. Portugal is buttressed against the Atlantic Ocean to the west and much of its northern and central regions are dominated by a mountainous terrain. It is obvious by geography alone that there is nothing easy about making wine in much of Portugal. Historically, in many ways Portuguese winemakers didn’t choose the piece of land they planted or the vines. It was land that chose which varietals would survive and thrive in those conditions.

Add in the relative isolation of Portugal based partly on its geography and politics, and you have this idea that there has been a very natural selection of the best vine to the best place in Portugal.  In a world once dominated by Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon, Portugal continues to rely on its local grapes such as Touriga Nacional, Alvarinho, Arinto, Baga and a whole host of other uniquely Portuguese grapes. These are indeed wines that exude their “somewhereness” of place.

 

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