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Wines between the sea and the mountain 18 Apr '19

Nothing better than family vacations in Algarve. From here I write this week’s text, the excellence destination for summer vacation of the Portuguese,that is also one of the best destinations for those who live in the North of Europe. Here the climate is tempered and, even in April, it is possible to go to the beach, if the wind blows light.

Algarve is located between the sea and the mountain. Separating both, there is “barrocal”, where in my opinion, are the best soils of this region. It happens that in Algarve people always fought for the coast, which is understandable, since it is there that all the trade happens, either if it is local trade or export trade. Surprisingly, Algarve always imported wine, even after we start producing it here. Some would bring wine from another regions, like Baetica, current Andalusia, or from Gaul.

The wines from Algarve are still what they always were, hot, strong and with low aging potential. And it is easy to understand why. This climate of temperate winters and hot and dry summers doesn't allow more. Here, the fruit - including grapes - is sweeter, less acid. Consequently, the wines produced from these grapes are usually alcoholic and boring*. Historically the grapes of Algarve were not only used for wine. The raisins of the grapes, just like the famous figs, were always used for trade. And there is a funny curiosity related to Algarve wines: did you know that it was used to “falsify” productions of low quality port wine? This happened before the Douro region was demarcated. It was easy to produce good bases for port wine, because the grapes had good potential of high alcoholic graduation, what theoretically, allows good bases for fortified wines.

In this region the wines were mostly red, which is easy to tell by looking to the group of grape varieties that compose the vineyards. But these wine have short longevity, because of the lack of acidity and soft structure that characterizes them. It makes sense to invest in rose wines, these are a safe choice and it allows the harvest of the grapes to happen before the whole acidity gets lost in the heat of the summer. The road is long, but Algarve is proceeding in the right direction, heading for the success. Provence should take care, although the summer is hot here, it is also salted, and there are only a few wine regions that can claim the same.

*Term used in winemaking to characterize wines with lack of freshness or acidity.

Hélder Cunha
The wine’s my life