How Port Became a Wine Staple Through Trade Agreements
“Port” is fortified red wine originating from Douro Valley in Portugal. Portuguese wine started to thrive because of increasing demand from British consumers. This consumption forced merchants to travel farther in the Douro region in search of better wine. When they arrived at the upper reaches of the Douro region, they found that area’s wine to be more robust with longer-lasting effects due to the climate of that region.
Did you know? The first demarcated wine region was created in the Douro, and its creation is due to attempts to produce Port wine in other regions and consequently decreasing its quality. With the creation of the demarcated region, it sought to regulate the production and marketing of wines made in the Douro region.
But problems arose when they looked for ways of transferring that wine to Viana do Castello, the renowned commercial hub of the British at the time, as it was challenging to transfer those wines to the hub without altering their taste and quality. These wines were loaded into ships along the Douro River and shifted to Oporto (Porto) and sent off to England for British merchants. Port was fortified to keep it intact from the after-effects of extensive travel. Nowadays, it is fortified for alcohol unification and enhancement to prevent it from spoiling.
When did Port Gain Significance?
Port gained significance in 1174 with the kingdom’s establishment in Portugal. Portugal gained enormous fame as a favorable country due to its shoreline along the Atlantic Ocean, which attracted many merchants for trading. In 1386, Portugal signed a treaty with England establishing trade alliances.
By the mid-15th century, more than half of the ‘Port’ vines were transported to Britain. In 1678, this wine achieved its peak popularity.
The Methuen Treaty
In 1703, the Methuen Treaty (also known as the Port wine treaty), was signed between both countries during the early years of war between England and Spain. According to these rules, Portugal would exchange port wine for English textiles made of wool cloth. This treaty played an enormous role in the popularity of this wine and the industry. Before Port, people were buying wines in France, but England’s war with France resulted in increasing difficulty to obtain that wine, and people started to buy “Port” wine instead. The treaty also resulted in repercussions for the Spanish sherry industry in Jerez, a Cadiz province.
Europeans became familiar with the taste of Port, as it was more accessible due to the Methuen treaty, which left sherry producers with their unsold stock aging in oak barrels, and their wines getting nuttier. According to requirements, producers started bottling sherry and replenishing it with their younger wine. This practice got the name ‘solera.’ At the start of the war, Portugal allied with France and promised naval protection. When the English navy sailed to Lisbon from Cadiz, the Portuguese shifted its side as France was not fulfilling its commitment.
On this day
1665: – The first reference to port wine took place in 1675, at that time port wine was already internationally known.
January 27: International Port Wine Day
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