The Vine and the Varieties
In Madeira, the vineyards are planted in small terraces, which make its mechanization practically impossible.
Even though vineyard, in this region, may seem to be cultivated in large plots, they are actually several terraces or small gardens that are combined in a unique landscape, whose traditional conducting system is the “latada” or pergola.
The first grape varieties were introduced in Madeira by order of Prince Henry, the Navigator, a few years after the discovery of the island. It is known that the Malvasia variety was ordered from the island of Crete (Greece), from the region of Cândida, hence the existence of Malvasia Cândida. At the beginning of the settlement, people from Minho also brought vines and, obviously, other grape varieties. These and other varieties, which arrived on the island from several origins, were faced with poor and not very fertile volcanic soils with a high acidity content, but adapted and soon began to produce fantastic wines, which were successfully exported. It has remained so to our days. Nowadays, the Madeira fortified wines are made from the Tinta Negra, Malvasia, Bual, Verdelho, Sercial, Terrantez and some Moscatel grape varieties, which also then became linked to the degree of sweetness of these wines.
Nevertheless, the Madeiran winegrowers have always produced table wine for their consumption, with these and other varieties, even red grapes, which have been planted over the centuries.
On the island of Porto Santo, there is also a great popular wine tradition, for own or local consumption, mainly of two white varieties: Caracol and Listrão.
Therefore, there is no surprise that the first still wines appeared in the 90s of the past century. Initially, they were essentially white, mainly from the Verdelho and Arnsburger grape varieties, but red grape varieties quickly started to be used, namely Touriga Nacional, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Aragonez and Tinta Negra. More varieties were planted, in several areas of the island.