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Wines Of Portugal

WINES OF PORTUGAL In the north-east of Portugal, not far from the town of Oporto from which it takes its name and whence it is exported is produced the wine, unique in its full-bodied and generous character, known as port.

Port is grown in the Alto Douro district, a rugged tract of land some 30 to 40 m. long by 10 m. wide, which commences at a point _ on the river Douro some 60 m. above Oporto. The character of the Alto Douro is extremely mountainous and rugged. J. L. W. Thudrchum, in his Treatise on Wines, gives a striking and almost poetical description of it as compared with Jerez. He says: "The vineyards of Jerez are so beautiful and productive that they might well be termed the vineyards of Venus. Undulating hills, easily accessible from all sides, are covered with a luxurious growth of vines. . . . Very different is the aspect of the Alto Douro. Here all is rock, gorge, almost inaccessible mountain, precipice and torrent, while over or along all these rude features of nature are drawn countless lines of stone walls by which man makes or supports the soil in which the vines find their subsistence. ... I thought that if Jerez was the vineyard of Venus, this Alto Douro vineyard must be termed the vineyard of Hercules." The vineyards are, in fact, situated on artificially made terraces, supported by walls on the mountain sides. If this were not the case the heavy winter rains would wash away the soil. The climate of the Alto Douro is very variable. Intense heat in summer is followed by severe cold in winter. The soil is a peculiar clay-schist, on or alternating with granite, and it is to the peculiar conditions of climate and soil that port owes its remarkable qualities of colour, body and high flavour. There appears to be no predominant and distinct type of vine, such as is the case in other viticultural districts, but a number of varieties, mostly yielding grapes of a medium size are common to the Douro vineyards. The method of cultivation is generally that of a rational low culture, and in this respect differs from that employed in other parts of the country, where the vines are either trained on trees or over trellis-work at some height from the ground.

Vinification. The process of converting the Alto Douro grapes into wine differs in some material particulars from those employed elsewhere. The grapes are cut and then conveyed in baskets by the Gallegos (as the labourers who come specially from Galicia in Spain for this purpose are termed) to the winery. Here the stalks are removed, generally by a machine similar to the French egrappoir, and the grapes then placed in the lagar. This is a square stone vessel of considerable size made to hold up to fifteen pipes (the pipe equals 115 gallons) of wine. It is roughly 2 ft. deep and from 3 to 10 yds. wide. The grapes are first trodden for a periqd varying from twenty-four hours upwards, and are then allowed to ferment in the lagar itself. When the fermentation has reached a certain point it is generally the custom to again tread the must in order to extract as much colour as possible from the skins. In order to preserve the sweet quality of the wine, fermentation is not permitted to continue beyond a certain point. When this is reached the wine is drawn from the lagar over a strainer or some similar arrangement into vats yielding from five to thirty pipes. The murk remaining in the lagar is then pressed by means of a lever or beam press with which this vessel is fitted. In order to prevent the wine from fermenting further and so becoming dry, from 4 to 5 volumes of brandy are added to every 100 volumes of wine in the vats. The alcohol employed for this purpose is as a rule of high quality and made solely from wine. When, after the approach of the cold weather, the lees have dropped, the wines are racked and a further addition of brandy is made. The second racking takes place in March or April, and the wine is now placed in casks and sent to Oporto, where it is stored in large over-ground buildings termed lodges. A further addition of brandy is generally added before shipment. The great bulk of the wine is stored for many years before shipping, but this does not apply to the commoner varieties, nor to the finest wines, which, being the produce of a specific year, are shipped unblended and as a vintage wine. The most famous vintages of recent times were those of 1847, 1851, 1863, 1868, 1870, 1873, 1878, 1881, 1884 and 1887. A white port is also made in the Alto Douro, and this, although little known in England, is exported in considerable quantities to Germany and Russia. The white port is grown in vineyards which are not quite so favoured as regards position as the red port growths. White port is made from white grapes, and a peculiarity of its manufacture is that the must is frequently fermented in the presence of the skins, which is most unusual in the case of white wines. This gives a certain stringency to white port, which is characteristic of the wine.

Diseases. The Alto Douro has from time to time been sadly ravaged by the oidium and phylloxera. The former first made its appearance about the middle of the igth century, and reached a climax in 1856, when only about 15,000 pipes, that is, about onesixth of the usual quantity, was vintaged. In consequence of this, the exportation of port dropped from over 40,000 pipes in 1856 to about 16,000 pipes m 1858. Since then oidium has reappeared from time to time, but the remedy of spraying with finely divided sulphur, which was discovered at the time of the epidemic, has enabled the wine farmers to keep it under. The phylloxera, which appeared in Alto Douro in about 1868, also did enormous damage, and at one time reduced the yield to about one-half of the normal. At one time the position appeared to be desperate, particularly in view of the fact that the farmers refused to believe that the trouble was due to anything other than the continuous drought of successive dry seasons, but at the present time, after much expenditure of energy and capital, the condition of affairs is once more fairly satisfactory.

Port Wine Trade. The port wine trade is of considerable importance to the United Kingdom not only because the chief trade in this wine is with that country, but also because a very large proportion of the capital invested in the industry is English. It is probable that the English capital locked up in the port industry amounts to some 2 millions sterling. In the period preceding the 'seventies of the last century practically the whole of the wine exported from Oporto came to Great Britain. Thus in the year 1864 there were exported to Great Britain 29,942 pipes and to the rest of the world 5677 pipes. The trade with the rest of the world, however, has gradually grown since then, the figures being as follows :

Exports of Wine from Oporto.


To Great Britain.

To Rest of the World.

1874 1884 1898 1903 1906 Pipes.

35.753 30,281 4 1 .93 32,832 34,356 Pipes. 20,778 31,741 69,932 65,058 80,934 The growth of the export trade from Oporto with the rest of the world is principally due to the enormous increase in the quantity of wine sent to South America, chiefly Brazil, but only a small proportion of this (probably one-eighth) is port wine proper. The bulk of it consists of wine from the Minho and Beira districts. These facts also account for the apparent anomaly that the exports from Oporto are much higher than the total production of wine in the Alto Douro. At the present time the average production of the Alto Douro is about 50,000 pipes. During the last decade it was at a maximum in 1904, when 70,000 pipes were produced, and at a minimum in 1903, when only 18,000 pipes were obtained. The value of the port taken by the United Kingdom was in the year 1906 over one million sterling, that is, rather less than half of the total value of all the French wines imported, but more than double the value of the total of Spanish wines.

The chemical features of interest in port are the relatively high proportions of alcohol (the bulk of the wine imported into the United Kingdom containing some 1 8 to 22% of alcohol), sugar and tannin. The sugar varies considerably according to the vintage, but as a rule amounts to from 7 % to 15 %.

Other Portuguese Wines. The wines of the Alto Douro only form a small proportion of the total quantity of wine produced in Portugal. The main wine-growing district outside that of Oporto is in the neighbourhood of Lisbon. The chief varieties are those grown at Torres Vedras, which are of a coarse claret type; at Collares, where a wine of a somewhat higher quality is produced; at Carcayellos, at the mouth of the Tagus; and at Bucellas. In the latter district is produced a white wine from the Riessling grape, which is commonly known in the United Kingdom as Bucellas Hock.

As far as the United Kingdom is concerned, the Madeira wine industry is mainly of interest in that it was largely developed by and is still chiefly in the hands of British merchants. M a a e ln The shipments to the United Kingdom, however, which reached a maximum in 1820, when over half a million gallons were imported, has fallen off to one-tenth of that amount, and the consumption in these islands was barely 20,000 gallons in 1906. This falling away in the taste for Madeira is partly ascribable to fashion and partly to the temporary devastation of the vineyards by the phylloxera in the middle of last century. The re-establishment of the vineyards and the consequent development of the industry did not, however, lead to a renewal of the trade on the former scale with this country. The output in 1906 amounted to 10,000 pipes (Madeira pipe = 92 gallons) and the export to 6010 pipes, of which quantity 1951 pipes went to Germany, 1680 pipes to France, 796 pipes tc Russia and 755 pipes to the United Kingdom. Madeira, like sherry and port, is a fortified wine. The method of vinification is siniila to that employed in other parts of Portugal, but the method employe< for hastening the maturation of the wine is peculiar and character i~-tu. This consists in subjecting the wine, in buildings specially designed for this purpose, to a high temperature for a period of some months. The temperature varies from 100 to 140 F. according to the quality of the wine, the lower temperature being used for the better wines. The buildings in which this process is carried out are built of stone and are divided into compartments heated by means o hot air derived from a system of stoves and flues. Much of the characteristic flavour of Madeira is due to this practice, which hastens the mellowing of the wine and also tends to check secondary fermentation inasmuch as it is, in effect, a mild kind of pasteurization WINES OF GERMANY Although the quantity of wine produced in Germany is comparatively small and subject to great variations, the quality of the finer wines is, in successful years, of a very high order. In fact Germany is the only country which produces natural (i.e. unfortified) wines of so high a class as to be comparable with although of an entirely different character from the wines of France. The finer wines possess great breed and distinction, coupled with a very fine and pronounced bouquet, and in addition they are endowed with the in the case of lighter wines rare quality of stability. The great inequalities observed in the different vintages and the exceptionally fine character of the wines in good years are, generally, due to the same cause, namely, to the geographical position of the vineyards. The wines of the Rhine are grown in the most northerly latitude at which viticulture is successful in Europe, and consequently, when the seasons are not too unpropitious, they display the hardiness and distinction characteristic of northern products. During the period 1891-1905 the total production of Germany has averaged roughly 62 million gallons, attaining a maximum of in million gallons in 1896 and a minimum of 16 million gallons in 1891. The trade with the United Kingdom is now a very considerable one, amounting in 1006 to roughly ij million gallons to the value of three-quarters of a million sterling.

The wines grown in the Rheingau, Rheinhessen and in parts of the Palatinate are generally known by the name of Rhine wines, although Rhine many of these are actually produced on tributaries of that river. Thus the well-known Hochheimer, from which the curious generic term " hock " employed in England for Rhine wines is derived, is made in the vicinity of the little village of that name situated on the Main, a number of miles above the junction of the latter with the Rhine. The Rheingau district proper stretches along the north bank of the Rhine from Bingen on the west to Mainz on the east. The most important wines in this region are those of the Johannisberg and of the Steinberg. The vineyards of the former are said to nave been planted originally in the I ith century, but were destroyed during the Thirty Years' War. They were replanted by the abbot of Fulda in the 18th century. During the French Revolution the property passed into the hands of the prince of Orange, but after the battle of Jena, Napoleon deprived him of it and presented it to Marshal Kellermann. On the fall of Napoleon, the emperor of Austria took possession of the vineyard and gave it to Prince Metternich. At the present time the property still belongs to the descendants of the latter. The vineyards of Steinberg belong to the state of Prussia. The vineyards of these two properties are tended with extraordinary care, and the wines, of which several qualities are made in each case, fetch exceedingly high prices. The finest wines are produced in a manner somewhat similar to that employed for making the Sauternes. The grapes are allowed to become over-ripe and are then selected by hand. This process produces the so-called Auslese wines, which frequently fetch as much as 305. or 403. a bottle. The other most important wines produced in the Rheingau and its extensions are those of Marcobrunn, Geisenheim, Rudesheim and Hochheim. The "I 05 ' important wines produced in Rheinhessen (on the left bank of the Rhine and south of the Rheingau) are those of Liebfraumilch, Nierstem, Oppenheim, Bodenheim.Laubenheim and Scharlachberg. In the Palatinate the most important growths are those of Forst, IJeidesheim and Durkheim.

The wines of the Moselle are of a somewhat different character to those of the Rhine. Whereas the Rhine wines of the finer descriptions Mos-llc. are as a ru . le fair 'y ful1 bodied and of marked vinosity, the Moselle wines are mostly light and of a somewhat delicate nature. While the Rhine wines generally improve in bottle for a lengthy period, the Moselles are as a rule at their best when comparatively fresh. Indeed, many connoisseurs hold that when a Moselle ceases to show signs of the somewhat prolonged secondary fermentation, characterized by the slight prickling sensation produced on the palate (caused by the presence of bubbles of carbonic acid gas in the wine), that it has passed its best. The best-known growths of the Moselle are those of Brauneberg, Bernkastel, Piesport and Zeltingen. Some of the tributaries of the Moselle also produce wines which in quality approach those of the parent river. Among these may be cited the growths of Scharzhofberg, Geisberg and Bockstein.

Large quantities of wine are produced in Alsace-Lorraine, Baden and Wurttemberg, but the majority of these have little interest, inasmuch as they are used only for home consumption. Among the wines, however, which are well known may be mentioned the Franconian growths, amongst which the celebrated Stein wine, which is grown at the foot of the citadel of the town of Wurzburg, and in the grand duchy of Baden the celebrated growths of Affenthal (red) and Markgrafler.

Practically all the important wines of Germany are white, although there are a few red growths of some quality, for instance that of Assmannshausen in the Rheingau. The latter is produced from the black Burgundy vine, the Pineau. In the Rheingau the predominant vine is the Riessling. This plant appears to be indigenous to the Rhine valley, and the finest wines are made exclusively from its grapes. In the hope of reproducing the characteristic of the Rhine wines, the Riessling has been planted in many young wine-producing countries, such as Australia, California and the Cape, and not entirely without success. It thrives best on rocky mountain slopes freely exposed to the Sun, and requires a relatively high temperature to reach perfect maturity. In the lower lands, therefore, it is customary to plant, in addition to the Riessling, vines such as Osterreieher and Kleinberger, which mature more readily than the former. Other vines, such as the Orl&ns and the Trammer, are also found in small quantities in the Rheingau. On the Moselle the Riessling and the Kleinberger are the chief growths. The vintage on the Rhine is, in order to permit the grapes to acquire the " over-ripeness " necessary to the peculiar character of the wines, generally very late, rarely taking place before the end of October. The process of vinification is peculiar in that fermentation takes place in relatively small casks, the result being that there are frequently marked differences in the produce of the same growth and vintage.

The very great variations which are shown by the same growths of different vintages makes it impracticable in the case of the German white wines to give representative analyses of them. Comparing the fine wines of the better vintages with, for instance, the red wines of the Gironde, the main features of interest are the relatively high proportions of acid and glycerin and the low proportion of tannin which they contain.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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