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Characterization of Portuguese wine styles

Vinho Madeira (Madeira Wine)

The third style of unique Portuguese wines is Vinho Madeira (Madeira wine). Like the previous, this is also closely linked to trade with other countries. Madeira Wine is a liqueur wine produced in the Região Demarcada da Madeira (Demarcated Region of Madeira) (Figure No. 27) with the designation of origin Madeira.

The island of Madeira was discovered by Portuguese navigators in 1419. It was then that the settlers brought to the island typical cultures of continental Portugal, with the vineyard been one of the crops that best adapted to the island Terroir. No one knows for sure which first grape varieties were planted on the island of Madeira but there are records, for example, of the introduction of Malvasia Cândida grape variety, in 1450, brought from the Minho region. There are also records of the first 25 years after the discovery of the island, on the first exports of wines produced there (Figure No. 26) and exported to the countries of northern Europe and present in the maritime routes of the Portuguese navigators.

The history of Vinho da Madeira is made of the close relationship between the Portuguese merchants travelling on routes to India and the Americas, hence its growing popularity in the international markets.

Over time, the Vinho da Madeira, an excellent quality wine, has been present in important moments, of which I would highlight the day of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, July 4, 1776.

In the course of a growing international demand and appreciation of this wine, the fortification (with neutral alcohol of vinous origin with 96% concentration) and steaming techniques were born, with the use of these practices dating of the eighteenth century. Fortification of wine is made at different times of wine making.

With over 500 years of history, the history of Vinho da Madeira is linked to export, and the evolution of its quality has always been a challenge and a priority for producers. In shipping trips to India, the Vinho da Madeira barrels were transported in the bow of the boat. The many trips back and forth, and the high temperatures to which was subject to the crossing of Ecuador, contributed to a qualitative evolution of the wine, and because of that the process of stowing was reproduced in the ageing cellars of this wine. The island of Madeira (Figure No. 27) is an archipelago of islands located in the Atlantic Ocean between the meridians 35º and 45º of latitude, at 1100 km from mainland Portugal and 600 km from the African coast. It is an island of volcanic origin. Its altitude ranges from sea level is up to 1861m altitude. The viticultural landscape is part of these extreme conditions, with vineyards planted on ledges known for Poios, and sustained by walls of basaltic rocks, many located several meters above the sea level.

Of the 730 square kilometres of Madeira Island, only about 400 Ha are planted with vines. These vines come in small parcels with an average area of 300 m2. The soils are of volcanic origin, mostly basaltic. Due to its location, the climate is marked by hot, humid summers and mild winters. Precipitation levels vary between 3000 mm per year in the higher regions, and 500 mm in the lower regions, concentrating the majority of the rainfall in the autumn and winter periods.

The grape varieties most used in the production of Vinho Madeira are the Tinta Negra (variety of red grapes), Cercial, Verdelho, Boal and Malvasia (varieties of white grapes) and a total of 21 different varieties authorized by the Instituto do Vinho, do Bordado e do Artesanato da Madeira (IVBAM, Wine Institute, Embroidery and Crafts of Madeira).

One of the specific techniques of wine production in Madeira is the steaming, a unique process developed over its 500 years of history. The steaming is the process of heating the wine to temperatures that reach 45° C for 3 months, allowing the replication of the extreme temperature conditions to which they were subjected during the boat trips, and to which its quality is attributed to.

The Vinho da Madeira can be classified into different categories: Frasqueira, Colheita, Colheita com Indicação de Casta, Canteiro, Indicação de Idade, Reserva ou Velho, Reserva Velha or muito Velha, Reserva especial, Selecionado, Fino, Solera and Rainwater.

The Frasqueira rating is aVinho da Madeira associated with the harvest year and whose product results from the use of traditional noble grape varieties. It has an ageing process of at least 20 years before bottling, presenting a quality that must be registered in the cellar records. Colheita is a Vinho da Madeira from a single harvest, a good quality vintage, carrying the statement of the harvest date and with minimum ageing of 5 years. The Colheita com Indicação de Casta rating is a Madeira wine from a single harvest, with 100% of a single grape variety, a good quality vintage, statement of the harvest date and with minimum ageing of 5 years.

Reserva or Velho (old) is a Vinho da Madeira in accordance with the standard 5 years of age. Reserva Velha or muito Velha (old or very old reserve) is a wine in accordance with the standard 10 years old.

The Reserva Especial (special reserve) classification corresponds to the standard of 10 years with outstanding quality. It is a selected wine aged for at least three years, of good quality, with prior approval of the respective standard sample. Solera has the characteristics of a Vinho da Madeira associated with a harvest date which is the basis of the lot, removing each year for bottling an amount no higher than 10% of the stock, replaced by another quality wine.

Rainwater has the characteristics of a wine with a colour between "dourado" (golden) and the "meio dourado" (half golden), with a Baumé degree between 1.0° and 2.5°; good quality, with prior approval of the respective standard sample.

After this short analysis of three wine styles unique in the world, we can conclude that its history is closely linked to exports and trade with other countries, which adds value to the product; nevertheless, one must not forget the national market which contributed greatly to an equilibrium in the trade balance (Source table No. 3). That is why these styles are continually sought throughout the world, and this is linked to its history.
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