Azores

The Azores 

The Azores are an archipelago of nine islands about a third of the way out into the Atlantic on a line between Lisbon and New Jersey.

Buffeted by the mid-Atlantic weather, on the same latitude as Lisbon, this little group of islands has lush, green countryside, volcanic peaks and lakes, caverns, sulphur pits and lava flows. So spectacular are the islands’ historic vineyards that a vineyard area on the island of Pico has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What is so special about it? Most vines on the Azores are grown within currais, small dry stone wall enclosures made of black volcanic rock. Vines are planted in holes and cracks in the lava flows, and the walls protect the vines from Atlantic winds and salt spray. The vineyards of Pico are a particularly stunning example.


Past and Present

Vines have been planted thus since the early 16th century, when the islands were a port of call for discoverers on their way to the New World. By the 18th century, the sweet, fortified Azores wines were famous and prized.

Vine diseases in the 19th century caused many vineyards to be abandoned, or replanted with hybrid vines. It was only in the 1980s and 1990s that Verdelho and other better grapes began to be more widely replanted.

Today, three islands make wine. Much of the island of Graciosa has DOP status for light white wines, vinified at the local co-operative. There are two other DOPs for fortified wines (tangy and nutty, dry to sweet): in some coastal areas of the island of Pico; and Biscoitos, a little area in the north of Terceira. On both Pico and Terceira, some good, unfortified IGP Açores wines are also made, by a couple of small-scale private producers, and in Pico by the co-operative. Most wines are white and, thanks to the damp, temperate climate, fresh and tangy. Vinho de cheiro, ‘scented wine’ made from hybrids, is drunk by locals and by nostalgic emigrés in North America.


Main white grapes: 

  • Verdelho, Arinto and Terrantez