Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Among European wine-producing nations, Portugal has been something of a paradox, arguably discussed in the greater world of wine more because of the cork of which it is by far the dominant producer than for its wines. Sitting on the western flank of the Iberian peninsula, this seafaring nation which discovered so much of the new world has long clung firmly to the Old—at least in terms of its tradition of myriad indigenous varieties. Secluded both geographically and, for much of the 20th century until it joined the eu in 1986, politically as well, Portugal has developed in isolation from other countries, including neighbouring spain. However, the sizeable wine industry that has grown up in this small country owes much to foreign trade. Total area under vine has declined from 385,000 ha/951,000 acres in the late 1980s to just under 234,000 ha producing about 7 million hl by the second decade of this century. Although the Portuguese rival the French and trump the Italians in terms of per capita wine consumption, the global financial crisis of 2007/08, which prompted the imposition of austerity measures in 2010, turned Portuguese wine producers’ attention firmly to export markets.