"In the evening when the gang of pickers can
no longer see their way around the steep
terraced vineyards, they put on shorts and jump
thigh deep into the purple mass of grapes...The
human foot is regarded as ideal for pressing
as it breaks up the grape without crushing the pips.
These would otherwise release bitter-tasting
phenols into the wine."
Port was always made this way since its creation
three centuries ago. "But over the last 20 years,
treading grapes has become much less widespread.
Sons and daughters have gone to find more profitable
and less arduous work in the cities...the owners
were forced to turn to gentle mechanical crushers."
In the village
of Mateus stands this 17th Century palace featured on Mateus'
label. Mateus is Portugal's single biggest export wine,
exceeding three million cases a year.
...from The New Revised Edition of Portugal's Wines & Wine Makers
by Richard Mayson, published by the Wine Appreciation Guild, San Francisco.
The Rest of the Story
The thirteenth century was an exciting time for Portuguese
wine makers. The last of the Moors, with their prohibition
against viniculture, were expelled from the country and
the wine trade with Britain began.
Richard Mayson makes it clear why the 21st
century will be equally exciting. As symbolized
by the above change in crushing, modern methods
are coming to one of the 10 biggest wine producers
in the world. (Italy is the largest.)
Portugal's Madeira Island is another good example. "Madeira
looked as though it was in terminal decline not long ago."
But the descendants of Port pioneer Andrew James Symington
(he arrived in Portugal in 1882) "are providing essential
investments... And Madeira's prospects currently look better
than at anytime over the past generation."
mentions "the ferocious-looking Scabbard Fish, served with
Overall, since the first edition was published
six years ago, "the pace of change has been rapid."
Of course, with varietals sporting names like
'dog strangler' and 'fly droppings,' the reader
may support change. In any case, this is an
exhilarating book...the first of its kind. I
wish it had existed during my five trips to
Portugal and one to Madeira. It's also a guide
book, with directions and dining recommendations
for even the more remote table wine districts.
Rating: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
To order: Phone (800) 231-9463, $34.95
Photos: These are not from the book, but from my trips.