We have had two Portuguese wine tastings in recent weeks and we blogged about Portuguese Dao here three weeks ago. Now after just a little research I am beginning to understand why Portugal's wine industry has been so underappreciated here. Portugal is a country of 35,000 square miles. By contrast California is a state of 163,707 square miles. Portugal has 26 DOC (top quality) wines while California has an appellation system but no legally established hierarchy. Moreover California is known for a dozen grapes that it produces well while Portugal's grape varieties are ancient and innumerable. So there are major differences in the wine cultures between here and there.
One obvious explanation for how Portugal can go so unnoticed while California thrives on the grocery store shelves has to do with the mass marketing of wines in America, a subject we have devoted a lot of time to here. Moreover, The California Wine Institute, a Washington-based lobbying group promoting their industry, successfully uses every opportunity at its avail to further the cause. Yet Portugal maintains a 3.17% share of the American wine business, making it seventh among importers to this country, and Portugal is the fifth highest wine exporting country worldwide, which is incredible considering it's a country roughly one fifth of the size of California.
Over the course of the next few weeks we will return to Portugal often with the goal of unpacking their very tightly packed treasure chest of fine wines. Stay with us on this one. The rewards will be worth the effort.
Next Friday we will turn our tasting focus back to domestic wines with three reds and three whites, most if not all will be from Wente of Livermore, California. Please join us!