"Portugal Will Come To Call"

  by Fred McMillin


"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."

Mateus, Portugal
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.
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."

...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."
Scabbard Fish
Author Mayson mentions "the ferocious-looking Scabbard Fish, served with grilled bananas."

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.


To order: Phone (800) 231-9463, $34.95
Photos: These are not from the book, but from my trips.


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