Characterization of Portuguese wine styles

Alentejo wine region

The Alentejo region is located the south of Portugal. The beginning of the wine industry in this region (Figure No. 17) dates of the Roman occupation in the twelfth century, catalogued by the existence of Roman monuments linked to the production and transportation of wine, such as the Amphorae. It was the Romans who exploited on a larger scale the vineyard in Alentejo, transporting the wines in boats, by the Guadiana River. Clay jars of all shapes and sizes were found here, some containing nearly 2000 litres of wine, with a weight close to the ton and a height of nearly two meters. With the beginning of the 8th century came the Muslim invasion and subsequent Islamisation of the Iberian Peninsula. The different occupying tribes revealed different tolerances to regional habits, especially the Almoravides and Almohades who tore the vines or subjected them to harsh taxes. The wine culture was degraded progressively and abandoned in some cases.

With the Reconquista (reconquest), after the foundation of the Lusitanian kingdom, the culture stabilized and the monks recovered many vineyards. In the sixteenth century, vineyards flourished as never before in Alentejo, giving substance to the distinguished and acclaimed wines of Évora such as the Pêra-Manca, and the white wines of Beja and "palhetes" from Alvito, Viana and Vila de Frades.

The first crisis was caused by the War of Independence. By the middle of the Seventeenth century, Alentejo wines have gained greater fame and prestige in Portugal. During the Treaties of Methuen, the wine-growing area expanded over 100,000 ha. However, because of the signed peace between France and England and the oblivion of such treaty by the British traders, another crisis occurred. The Marquis of Pombal, due to his interests in the Douro, ordered the Alentejo vineyards to be ripped. By the middle of the nineteenth century there were attempts recover them.

The Alentejo region has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past 50 years from a traditional and inefficient viticulture, into a modern and highly modernized viticulture, well expressed in the cellars of the region. During the 70s and 80s the Alentejo began a modernization phase with the introduction of changes in the vineyards and the grape varieties planted and became a producing region of wines at very competitive prices.

Among other measures, the first Portugal Social Winery was built in 1885 in Viana do Alentejo. "With the creation of PROVA (Projecto de Viticultura do Alentejo - Alentejo Wine Growing Project) in 1977, the technical conditions were created for the implementation of a quality status in Alentejo, reinforced by ATEVA (Associação Técnica dos Viticultores do Alentejo -Technical Association of Winemakers of Alentejo), founded in 1983, and the CVRA (Comissão Vitivinícola Regional Alentejana - Regional Alentejo Wine Commission) in 1989.
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