Officially designated as the Autonomous Region of the Azores, the Azores are an archipelago and an autonomous territory of the Portuguese Republic. It is located 1600 kilometers west of the Portuguese mainland.
The Azores are composed of nine islands, with the islands of Corvo and Flores to the west. The islands Faial, Graciosa, Pico, São Jorge and Terceira make up the Central Group and Santa Maria and São Miguel the Eastern Group.
Image: PSD Açores
Sub-Regions of the Azores Wine Region
The wine region of the Azores is divided into three sub-regions on three different islands: Graciosa (1), Pico (2) and Biscoitos, on the island of Terceira (3); all of them created in 1994. The wines produced in the sub-region of Biscoitos and Pico are liqueur wines with a complex aroma of spices; in Graciosa, they are a combination of fortified wines and white table wines, made mainly from Verdelho.
The best varieties in the three sub-regions are Verdelho, Arinto dos Açores and Terrantez do Pico.
Types of wine and grape varieties in the Azores Wine Region
The quality of Azorean wines has long been recognized.
The white liqueur wine of Pico and Biscoitos stands out: it is a full-bodied and structured wine, produced from the Verdelho, Arinto and Terrantez grape varieties.
In the Graciosa sub-region, the wines that stand out the most are light, fresh, dry and very fruity whites, produced from the varieties Verdelho, Arinto, Terrantez, Boal and Fernão Pires. In the Pico sub-region, another of the best known wines (in addition to white liqueur) is Verdelho, made from this white grape variety. This white has gained a great reputation over the years, and is still widely recognized in countries like Russia, Brazil and England.
Unlike almost all other Portuguese wine regions, the climate of the Azores does not allow the production of good quality red wine due to the scarcity of sun in the region. Only a small amount is produced and all of them are young wines, as the potential for good aging is very low.
Terroir of the Azores Wine Region
The Azores region is located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is composed of volcanic soils and has a deeply maritime climate. Its temperatures are mild throughout the year but have a high level of precipitation and humidity. The average temperatures recorded are 13ºC in the Winter and 24ºC in the Summer.
The vineyards in this region have to be planted in places where they are sheltered and, for this reason, the corrals were created - stone walls where the vines are planted in order to be protected from the wind and the salty sea air.
This peculiar terroir gives rise above all to generous wines that offer a unique freshness and acidity, the most prominent being that of Pico Island.
Image: Azores Cruise Club
Harmonization of Azores wine with food
The ideal to accompany the Azorean liqueur wine are sweet desserts and also salty food, harmonizing by contrast, that is, in savory dishes, sweet wine decreases acidity, bitterness and salt in the food.
On the other hand, white wines from the Graciosa sub-region are perfect for summer, they can be drunk as an aperitif, with salads, fish or seafood dishes.