Viticulture extreme!

Pico island´s vineyards are in extreme conditions, very close to the sea and planted on the fissures of the mother-stone in volcanic soil, challenging the very definition of it.

The unusual sea proximity, between 50 and 300 meters, sprays the vineyards with salt. The sea works its way from underneath, blending with the rain´s freshwater in a combination of brackish water where the vineyards´ roots drink from.

The influence from the mountain and the clouds that usually gather around it, led men to plant their vineyards so close to the sea one may hear “the crabs singing”.

The stone walled currais, built by men around 500 years and classified by UNESCO, since 2004, as a World Heritage Site, are meant to protect the vineyards from the maritime wind and salt while creating a warmer microclimate for the plants.

 

Enology

We are deeply committed with our culture and grape varieties, as we are with creating new wines and accepting new challenges. Our winemaking is based on a minimum intervention process, supported by science, but always leading intuition to assume control when necessary.

When we put together such strong facts as proximity to the sea, volcanic soils, Atlantic and Island climate, unique and exclusive grape varieties from Azores, the role of enology is to transport those characteristics to the wine, resisting to the temptation to do better, different or original, but focusing on giving expression to wines that are almost born on the sea.

 

Verdelho

Verdelho is the only Azorean traditional grape variety that keeps the same designation on the islands of Pico, Terceira and Graciosa. Such fact is in line with the history of the variety in the archipelago because, as one may deduce from the quotations on the vineyards origin in the Region, it is considered the oldest and most typical.

It is similar to the Verdelho that is grown in Madeira as well as in Australia to where it was taken from this Portuguese island around 1824. However, the micro satellites profiles scientifically prove it is a variety different from the Italian Verdecchio, the Spanish Verdejo and the Portuguese Gouveio which, in the mainland, is also referred to as Verdelho.

 

Arinto dos Açores

It is the most important grape variety of the archipelago. It is autochthon and unique in the world, its origin unknown to this day. However, recent studies indicate that it is descendant from the Verdelho.

Of the three traditional grape varieties grown in Pico, it is the most resistant to weathering and has the highest production capacity combined with an enological quality similar to, or even superior to what is noticeable in Verdelho.

 

Terrantez do Pico

Terrantez do Pico, from the three autochthon grape varieties from the Azores, is the one that has the smallest cultivated area. It’s unique in the world and it was almost extinguished, fact that motivated a hard work from the Azores government Agriculture Department, in S. Miguel island. At the same time, the national and international attention called by the wine made by António Maçanita, led to a huge enthusiasm to replant this grape variety.

The use of the geographic name is important for not spreading error or confusion with the Terrantez grape variety that exists in Madeira and mainland Portugal. The molecular analisys show without any doubt that is a unique grape variety in the world.

 

Pico History

The discovery of this island by the Portuguese navigators took place sometime between 1449 and 1451, after the island of Terceira had already been spotted. In the beginning, it was known as King Dinis Island, and the current name comes up because the biggest Portuguese mountain lies there. It is believed that the island of Pico was the last island of the Central group to be populated, in an effort that basically mainly took place from the1480s onwards.

The settlers that arrived from the North of Portugal, after stopping over at the islands of Terceira and Graciosa, chose to settle at Lajes. The dry, hot climate of some parts of the island and the mineral resources of the lava soils led to the introduction of vineyards, mainly of verdelho grapes. As time went by, the quality of the local wine and spirits became known inside and outside the island, thus contributing to an increase in the development of vineyards. The wine was exported to Europe and America, with verdelho wine attained international fame. So much so that it was even served at the tables of the Russian tsars.

Recovering and reinventing very old traditions, Pico is still very much linked to sperm whales. The tourism industry is based on whale watching, with cetaceans now being protected species. Wine production has also acquired a new importance with its contribution to the local economy that is dominated by farming, cattle breeding and fishing. The uniqueness of Pico vine culture is internationally recognized, with the classification of the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture as World Heritage Site, by UNESCO, in 2004

Geography

World Heritage

In order to protect against the wind and sea air and to take the best advantage from the geological and weather conditions of the areas with lava plaques known as lajido the land was divided into a most impressive weave of black stone. The segmented horizon ends in the so-called currais – squares delimited by basalt walls where grapevines grow. The localities of Criação Velha and Santa Luzia are the best examples of this art of dividing the fields, which corresponds to hundreds of miles of stone walls hardly raised. These lands, a mixture of nature and ancestral cultural practices, include the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture has been classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 2004.

Next to the lava deposits, one finds the rilheiras, marks left by the cattle wagons that used to transport the grapes and the barrels, and the rola-pipas, slopes by the shore that were prepared for the barrels to slide all the way down to the waiting boats.