The tourism industry in the Algarve region of southern Portugal has exploded in recent decades. The Algarve is known for the 300 days of sunshine a year, the endlessly long sandy beaches and the blue ocean.
However, wine-growing in the Algarve also has a long tradition, in fact countless bottles of high-quality wine are produced there every year. Who would have thought?
In the following, you will not only get more detailed insights into the holiday paradise of the Algarve, but will also be introduced to the amazingly long history and current developments in winegrowing in the Algarve.
The diversity of the Algarve
The Algarve or 'Europe's sunniest coast' is located in southern Portugal and is certainly one of Europe's most popular holiday destinations. With its stunning rocky cliffs, golden beaches and historical sites, it attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.
The sea in the Algarve, which reflects in different shades of blue depending on the time of day, invites you to extensive water sports and bathing fun and also offers the perfect opportunity to admire the wildlife.
Many sports enthusiasts and golfers are also drawn to the Algarve for its wide range of activities and kilometers of carefully landscaped lawns and golf courses.
Each place in the Algarve has different facets and offers different things to do, with Albufeira, Faro, Lagos and Tavira certainly being among the best known.
However, these places have one important thing in common: the wide range of restaurants, bars and pubs. Because food and drink are considered special friends on the sunny coast.
It offers the exquisite cuisine of the fine restaurants, but also many local restaurants. Fresh fish or meat dishes and Portuguese home-grown wine can be bought there at affordable prices.
The wineries and fishing on the southern coast of Portugal are particularly important sources of income, with the Portuguese themselves eating around 70 kg of fish a year - more than any other European.
Tourists can experience this variety of fish and seafood up close at the markets in the Algarve in huge market halls. Another important source of income is the cork industry, but more on that later.
When strolling through the picturesque streets of the villages, you will quickly notice that there is no lack of culture in the Algarve. In the alleys you can admire chimneys and ceramic works of all kinds that adorn the roofs and houses.
If you are a fan of day trips then the Algarve is the place for you. Because the region has a large number of breathtaking castles and churches that date back to earlier centuries.
Viticulture in the Algarve
Portugal's viticulture history is very long and traditional and the first roots go back to 2000 BC. BC , when the first vines were planted in the Algarve.
Over the following centuries, more and more grape varieties and different production techniques were introduced by ancient peoples such as the Phoenicians, but also the Greeks and later the Romans.
The Portuguese owe their first merchant fleet to viticulture. Because from the 12th century , winegrowing in the Algarve was promoted so strongly by King Dionysius or the "Peasant King", among others, that the trading fleet could be built up from the earnings.
The wine trade in the Algarve is expanding
Due to the Treaty of Windsor concluded between Great Britain and Portugal in 1386 , a strong trade in wine developed between the countries. Algarve wine was particularly popular and its popularity was even recognized by kings in the 15th century.
The wine production in the Algarve and the export to distant countries therefore increased more and more drastically. Because even at the time of the voyages of discovery, wine was exported on sailing ships to distant and still unknown countries.
Decline in Algarve wine trade
Unfortunately, an earthquake in 1755 devastated the Algarve region and reconstruction was never properly undertaken, drastically reducing wine production.
Decades later, the wine industry suffered another setback due to the constantly growing tourism industry in the holiday magnet Algarve.
Some buyers, such as restaurateurs and holidaymakers who bought the good wine from the winegrowers, have always found themselves against each other. But many winegrowers couldn't resist the quick money and so they sold their businesses to hotel chains or real estate companies and the Algarve wine region slowly dwindled away.
Turnaround and current development of the Algarve wine industry
The turnaround came at the end of the last century. With the support of the Algarve Wine Commission , many vineyards have been restructured and new vineyards created.
Many only became aware of the wine of the Algarve again when the British singer Cliff Richard bought his own winery there .
The Mediterranean climate of the Algarve: perfect conditions for quality wine
The wine-growing region can be divided into 4 sub-areas from east to west:
These sub-areas have a wide variety of soil types such as slate, clay, limestone and sandstone soil, which give the Algarve wines their unique character. Soils tend to get sandy towards the coast, with the best locations tending to be on top of the mineral-rich shale.
The Algarve also offers otherwise excellent conditions for viticulture , because there is a particularly Mediterranean atmosphere. The Espinhaço de Cão, Caldeirão and Monchique mountain ranges protect the Algarve from harsh weather conditions and the freezing of the vines during the winter months.
For this reason, most helpful climatic influences, such as the warm wind, come from the south. Due to the rare rain and the Mediterranean heat, the grapes ripen faster than average. This is how the wines of the Algarve get a diverse number of unique and characterful aromas .
The wind from the sea softens the heat somewhat, preventing the excess build-up of sugar in the grapes, which would otherwise lead to too high an alcohol content.
The vines of the Algarve
These remarkable climatic and territorial conditions give rise to different types of vines that are later processed into high quality wine .
From the towns of Lagos in the west of the Algarve to Tavira in the east, a large number of white, but mainly red grapes thrive, also due to the different soil conditions .
The most common red grape varieties include Negra Mole and Castelão . The grape varieties Alicante-Bouschet, Tempranillo (Aragonez), Baga, Crato Preto, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Trincadeira, Petit Verdot and Touriga Nacional are also grown throughout the region.
Meanwhile, Siria, Vital and Arinto are among the most grown white grape varieties in the Algarve, although international grapes such as Crato Branco, Chardonnay, Muscat d'Alexandrie, Perrum, Rabo-de-Ovelha and Sauvignon can also be found.
The typical wines of the Algarve
The Algarve is more of a red wine region and probably the best known wine varieties are made from the traditional Castel ão and Negra Mole vines.
The range of local white wines is rather limited, although interestingly some are also made into high-alcohol dessert wines comparable to Spanish sherry .
The Branco , a cuvée composed of the grape varieties Arinto and Chardonnay , convinces with its mineral notes and its fresh fruit.
A wine that is particularly worth mentioning is the Reserve from Alicante Bouschet, Trincadeira and Cabernet Sauvignon , which inspires with its spice and depth.
Basically, the white wines and rosés of the Algarve are pleasantly fresh and classy and the red wines have an elegant and aromatic taste with a high alcohol content.
The trendy Algarve wine
The wine industry in the Algarve is currently booming.
Events such as PortoBay Wine Week are organized to introduce visitors to the world of Portuguese wine.
The wines are also presented and advertised at international wine fairs such as the Lagoa Wine Show , the BTL International Tourism Fair in Lisbon or the World Travel Market in London.
In addition, visitor centers such as that of the Barranco Longo winery and the one on the estate of the Quinta da Tôr winery will be set up, which will have wine cellars and tasting rooms and invite those interested in the world of Algarve wines.
The Algarve Wine Routes
Arguably the most influential initiatives, drawing the attention of many wine connoisseurs and tourists, are the Algarve Wine Routes. In 2013, the tourism authority decided to introduce the Rota dos Vinhos with the associated pass. This allows you to visit seven of the regional wineries for free and enjoy the Algarve wines.
The various wineries are divided into four thematically and territorially different wine routes .
1) The Rota Gil Eanes passes through the Lagos area.
2) The Rota do Arade explores the wineries around Portimão.
3) The Rota dos Mouros describes the wine villages around Silves.
4) The Rota do Cliff , compiled in honor of Cliff Richards, leads to and through Albufeira.
Each wine route has its own individual character , offering tastings, restaurants and fine wines to intoxicate the senses.
Long live the cork oaks!
In addition to tourism and viticulture, the south of Portugal is known for the production of bottle corks . Portugal is the largest cork supplier in the world. About half of the marketed cork products come from Portugal and the Algarve.
Cork is entirely a natural product, and more specifically it consists of the dead cells of the bark of cork oak trees.
The water-repellent property , which is essential for the production of cork, it contains by the substance suberin in the bark . For the time being, only champagne bottles were closed with corks. But when the wine industry experienced an upswing, corks became more and more in demand here too.
The cork oak grows an average of 10 to 15 meters high and is green all year round. It is largely resistant to forest fires , which are particularly common in the Algarve during the summer months. Otherwise, these cork oaks can be up to 350 years old , whereby the first harvest can only be completed after 25 years.
However, many Portuguese assure that only after the first two harvests have been completed - which is only possible every 9 years - can high-quality cork be harvested. The workers do real hard work, as they still harvest the cork by hand today.
According to the locals, some of the best and thickest cork oaks in Portugal grow in the small town of São Brás de Alportel in the western part of the Algarve .
The Algarve is not just scenic landscapes and beaches, it has so much more to offer. With its unique sights, its own industries such as cork and fishing, and world-class wines that have gained international popularity in recent decades, the Algarve is a hodgepodge of Portuguese resources.
The future of Algarve wines promises a thriving variety to keep an eye on.
about the author
Inara Muradowa is an SEO expert and corporate blogger. In addition to technical search engine optimization and SEO consulting, she actively supports companies with the conception and writing of professional blog posts.