Marquis of Pombal – Portugal’s Pioneer of Winemaking

Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo—better known as Marquis of Pombal—was born on May 13, 1699. During his time, he was regarded as one of the most significant politicians in Portugal and a pioneer in winemaking. Hence Marquis played a key role in developing wine regions in Portugal, which had far-reaching impact on the history of winemaking in the world.

The political journey of the Marquis of Pombal began as a Portuguese ambassador to England and Austria. Moreover, he was also the first Portuguese minister during the reign of King José I between 1750 and 1777. Responsible for several administrative, social, and economic reforms, Marquis of Pombal was also a major driver of the wine industry.

Marquis of Pombal

In 1755, Portugal suffered a major earthquake that devastated the city of Lisbon; at that time, the country was economically stagnant. Consequently, it was struggling to cope with growing budget deficits. Therefore, Marquis of Pombal used Port Wine as an alternative to balance the Portuguese deficit.

On September 10, 1756, Marquis of Pombal established the General Agricultural Company of the Alto Douro Vineyards in Portugal. The primary objective of this company was to stimulate the cultivation of Douro vineyards in the country. Moreover, another key objective was to encounter the monopoly of the English wine traders and thus increase the income of the Portuguese Crown with Port wine.

Marquis of Pombal

The company’s main functions were to demarcate the lands of the Alto Douro. Therefore, Marquis of Pombal created the concept of DOC (Denomination of Controlled Origin), which was later adopted by many prominent winemaking nations throughout the world. Nonetheless, the company’s contributions to winemaking went far beyond the creation of the world’s first DOC.

Over time, the vineyards were classified, production and trade were controlled, and wines were certified by bringing in rigid and extensive regulations that even last today in a refined form.

Between 1757 and 1761, the Marquis of Pombal ordered the construction of granite landmarks to delimit the region geographically. Some of these landmarks, called “Marcos Pombalines,” are still scattered throughout the Douro.

An extensive pricing system of wines was also established by Marquis of Pombal. The wine quality was directly related to the price charged. Wines imported to the rich English market would cost between 25 and 30 thousand réis, while wines exported to Brazil cost around 20 thousand réis. Similarly, some table wines would cost between 1500 and 3000 réis.

Did you know?

Created by Marquis of Pombal in 1756, the Douro Region in Portugal is the first controlled designation of origin in the wine world.

Also read: Portuguese Wine Regions

On this Day

May 13, 1699 – The pioneer of winemaking in Portugal, Marquis of Pombal, was born on this date. His influence transcends well beyond Portugal, and he is credited for taking fundamental steps to transform the winemaking trade in the world.

Sep 10, 1756 – On this date, Marquis of Pombal established the General Agricultural Company of the Alto Douro Vineyards in Portugal. It played a key role in stimulating vineyard cultivation in the Douro region and developing many basic regulations to ensure the smooth winemaking process, its trading, and pricing.

Want to read more? Try these books!

The wines of Portugal (The Classic Wine Library) Foot Trodden- Portugal and the Wines that Time Forgot


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