A Place We Love: Azores
If Spain’s Tenerife is the world’s most interesting place, Portugal’s Azores is its most surreal.
Completely surrounded by the Atlantic – and 1K miles off the coast of Portugal – this tiny set of Islands produces wine as distinct and marine as its location.
Azores wines are defined by a cool fog and volcanic soils, a particularly tense combination of climate and soil that we rarely see. Pico island is the center of production where a fairly dormant Mount Pico looms over all, trapping a constant cloud cover across the viticultural area. Unlike many of our favorite volcanic terroirs, the heat is well tempered, and the wines are incredibly racy and detailed.
With more producers making their way to the US than ever, we found it was high time we explore these razor sharp wines.
WHAT TO KNOW
Cool tropical, 50-70F year round with plenty of rain
Volcanic! But, as one of the youngest pieces of land on earth, there's not much native soil on the island. Protective walls of black volcanic basalt rocks are built up in grids to surround the vines, and soil is brought over on boats from neighboring Faial Island. To say it's a labor of love is an understatement.
Primarily white, from Arinto dos Açores, Verdelho and Terrantez do Pico
PAULO MACHADO: The Founding Father
Credit for the revolution of quality here can be pointed to Paulo Machado, who founded the local co-op (Azores Wine Company) and firmly positioned this remote place for the rest of the world.
His personal project INSULA VINUS has largely reclaimed older vineyards, farming organically and fermenting individual parcels. The wines are all done in stainless steel tanks, positioned on their side to mimic the self-stirring effect of a concrete egg and maximize lees contact. The result is deep intensity, with little to no introduction of oxygen.
'20 CHÃO DE LAVA
A blend of white varieties that reads very much like its neighbors in Galicia. Round texture, elegant windswept minerality, and ripped with fresh acidity. →
Layers of texture and a salty, smoky volcanic edge - finessed with 2 years of lees influence. →
'19 ARINTO DOS AÇORES
Arinto dos Açores - separate from the mainland Arinto and possibly descended from Verdelho - is indigenous to the islands, and known for aromatics that favor spice and nuance over simple florality. This is a beautifully textured and expressive bottle with a touch of age.
ENTRE PEDRAS: Between Two Stones
Friends and multi-generational natives of the island, André Ribeiro and Ricardo Pinto started at Azores Wine Company and now farm Ribeiro's 90-year old family vines.
Only a couple vintages in, the wines are already deeply expressive of Pico's unique terroir.
'21 ARINTO DOS AÇORES is freshly aromatic with orchard fruit and a disctinctly Azores salinity.