Luiz Alberto, #winelover. Founder of the #winelover community, member of the Circle of Wine Writers, judge at International wine competitions, wine educator and communicator. /•/ Philip S. Kampe, #winelover: Growing up in New Orleans has opened my eyes to the world of wine, food, and culture. My heritage is a combination of French, British, and Hungarian. Add eight years of European life coupled with a wife of Italian roots and you will understand my journey into this amazing world.
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Terceira Island, the 'Gem of the Azores' and home of Verdelho Wines by Philip S.Kampe
The many faces of Angra do Herismo
the ‘Gem’ of the Azores
The online advertisement read, “Visit beautiful Terceira
Island, one of nine islands in the Azores”. The ad went on to say that SATA airlines is
introducing weekly flights to Terceira
Island from Boston and is offering a “Special Inaugural Deal”
to visit this spectacular island.
The obvious first question I had was, “Where are the Azores?”
Even though I still maintain my amateur radio license (WA5EAM) and know a lot
about geography, I really did not know enough to pinpoint the location of Terceira Island.
Yes, the islands are a possession of Portugal
and yes, they are closer to America
than any other European hamlet, but, really, where are they located? After a
little research, the answer appeared. The Azores are on the same latitude as Lisbon (Portugal),
but nine hundred miles closer to America,
in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
In essence, a flight from Boston to Terceira Island
takes a mere four hours and forty minutes, which is shorter than a flight from Boston to Los Angeles.
Obviously, if the Azores are a third closer to America
then the rest of Europe, the weather
conditions, the seafaring history of the island and wine varietals may be
unique to the islands.
has a temperate, maritime climate with average temperatures average 72F (22C)
in the summer and 58F (19C) in the winter. As we witnessed, weather wise, it’s
possible that all four seasons of weather can occur in one single day. Rain can
be found on one part of the island, while sun, only a few miles away. When it
rains, the duration is short, rarely more than two days in a row. Wind is
another story. Like the clouds, wind exists daily, more during the winter
season than the summer.
The island is 18 miles long, from east to west and 11 miles wide, from north to
south. The highest elevation on the island, Serra de Santa Barbara, is 3,350 feet. The land area
equals 154.7 mi or 396.75km. Terceira is also
referred to as ‘Iha Lilas’, the lilac or violet island. The islands population
is 56,000 inhabitants. The historical capitol of the Azores is Angra de
Heroismo, the Azores oldest city and UNESCO
heritage site. The name, Terceira, origin
comes from the Portuguese word that means the ‘third’, as in ‘the third island’
or ‘third to be discovered’. Terceira Island is in the Central Group of the Azores archipelago.
is one of the archipelago of nine Azorian islands and is a symbol of the new
world created by the Portuguese voyages of discovery. Dates vary as to when the
island was discovered, but remnants from 2000 years ago were discovered,
indicating a history of settlement. The
island was originally named Jesus Cristo before the name change to Terceira Island. The second oldest recorded history
of the island dates back to 1325, prior to 1460 when Flemish Jacome de Bruges
brought Portuguese migrants to the island. Production of wheat and pastel-a
plant used in dyeing- was introduced and exported to northern Europe.
Shipping expanded during the 16th century and Terceira
Island was a stopover for fleets
returning to Europe with spice, silk and porcelain from Asia.
Ship repairs were made on the island before returning to Europe.
In the 17th century, Spanish ships stopped for repairs, after returning
with gold and silver from their South American conquests. Occupation by the
Spanish followed in due time, which eventually led to Portuguese rule.
Livestock is the main economic activity on the island, followed by dairy based
products, such as cheese, yogurt and ice cream. Terceira
has two main seaports and a commercial airport. The outlook for tourism is
The island consists of four overlapping ‘stratovolcanoes’ built over a geologic
structure called the ‘Terceira Rift’, a triple junction between the Eurasian,
African and North American tectonic plates. These volcanic structures rise
5,000 feet (1,500 meters) from the floor of the Atlantic
Ocean. Historically, the oldest volcanic activity began 380,000
years ago. Due to thousands of years of volcanic activity, the island possesses
an abnormal amount of basaltic soil, formed from the basaltic lava that flowed
from the eruptions.
Island cuisine includes seafood and livestock
Prior to the 1857 phylloxera outbreak, all nine of the Azorian islands produced
wine. Today, Terceira, Pico and Graciosa are
the three remaining wine producing islands. In the mid-15th century,
Franciscan friars played a major role in the introduction of vineyards to the Azores. Historically, Verdelho, the key Azorian grape
used in wine, was exported during the 17th and 18th
century to northern Europe. Legend has it that
when the communist revolution of 1917 ended, bottles of ‘Verdelho’ were found
in the Russian Tsar’s cellars. The three wine producing islands are DOC’s of
volcanic origin. Pico produces the most wines of the three islands due to the
fact that the soil is a black basaltic, which supports vine growth. There was a
burst in winemaking in the 1990’s, when winemakers began producing wines from
the three traditional grapes, Verdelho, Arinto and Terrantez.
The focus of this article is to educate you, the reader, about the general
aspects of the Azores, specifically Terceira
Island. In forthcoming
articles, the focus will be on the Wine Museum of Terceira Island; O Pescador
Restaurant from Praia: the second largest city
on Terceira; Quinta do Martelo: a village that recreates the general ambiance
of Terceira from decades ago and Quinta dos Acores:
a modern technological dairy, restaurant and meat packing house.
To learn more about the Azores, contact www.visitazores.com