Colares, located along the central Atlantic coastline of Portugal, also happens to be the westernmost wine region in all of continental Europe. Colares, which is located to the west of Lisbon, is famed for its unique growing conditions. Vines grow low along sandy topsoil and are anchored into the heavy clays found below the sand. Although there are other grapes grown in the region, only those that are grown in the sand can be called Colares.
By far, the most popular grape varietal in Colares is Ramisco, which accounts for nearly 75% of all wine production. Ramisco is particularly well-suited for growing in sandy conditions and tends to produce robust, tannic red wines that are high in acidity and low in alcohol. Traditionally, these red wines are aged for at least 10 years before being released on the market. During that time period, the wines soften and acquire greater complexity.
The vineyards of Colares are located less than two miles from the Atlantic Ocean, and that is both a blessing and a curse. The ocean, of course, helps to moderate the temperatures of the region. However, the gusty winds and salt spray can easily damage the vines. Therefore, the vines grow very low to the ground and are protected with special fences. The New York Times, when visiting the region, described it as “where the vineyards snake through the sand.”
The sand is more than a distraction or an interesting feature – it is paramount to the safety of the vines. Phylloxera can not live in loose sand, and so Colares wines have been protected throughout history by the sandy top soil.
The real threat to Colares in the modern era has been suburbanization and the development of the coastline for vacationers. In the 1940s, there were nearly 2,500 acres dedicated to vineyards, but by the 21st century, that figure had shrunk to just 50. As a result, Colares wines have acquired a reputation for being both rare and prestigious.
Image Source: wikimedia.org