The biddies continue their passport tour of volcanic wine with the Azores, an autonomous island chain of Portugal, located in the middle of the Atlantic. Tune in to learn more about the delicious wine grown on these volcanic formations.



Study Notes:

*Please note some of these lines might be directly taken from sources noted above.


  • There’s a massive rift in the mid Atlantic that stretches from north of Iceland to south of Capetown where the sea floor along this fault line is being ripped apart
    • The Americas are slowly drifting away from Europe and Africa at the pace of 1 inch per year
  • This has allowed the magma to seep up and build a submarine mountain range as big as the Rockies
  • Longest submarine mountain chain in the world
  • In some places, the magma has breached the surface to form islands like the Azores
  • Azores is made up of nine islands
    • Some have quite some distance between them 
    • They are growing apart from each other since some are on the North American plate and the rest sit between the Eurasian and African plates
  • Most seismically energetic place on earth with daily minor earthquakes and the volcano erupts every 50 years (Faial – last was 1957)


  • Has 500 years of wine production and international renown up to the early part of the 19th century but has the longest road ahead to notoriety for a wine region
  • Current generation doesn’t know much about it
    • First there was downy and powdery mildew, two devastating fungal diseases from the Americas and then phylloxera
    • By 1860 all quality wine had been wiped out
  • Replaced vinifera with North American varieties and hybrids
  • Vinho de Cheiro (dark legacy?)


  • Three original varietals:
    • Verdelho – botanical and fruity
    • Arinto dos Acores – most widely planted with acid and citrus flavor
    • Terrantez do Pico – herbal, floral and green citrus notes with mineral salts and seaweed
    • Rare reds and roses are made as well like Cab and Merlot for local consumption 
    • Saborinho (aka Tinta Negra Moll) is growing for lively characterful reds


  • Only three islands have DOP wine regions (Terceira, Pico, Graciosa)
  • DOP Biscoitos – grow a lot of Verdelho, wines have a higher acid to sugar balance than other regions in Azores
  • DOP Pico – about 80% of their wine comes from this region
    • Legend tells how after these isles were settled in the 15th century, an industrious and sizable monk (nicknamed Frei Gigante, meaning ‘big brother’ in Portuguese) led the effort to grow grape vines by placing soils in small basalt crevices and building protective walls.
    • These walls and these plots are oriented from east to west, which is quite different from what you see in other vineyards around the world,” he told me. “Sunlight starts warming up the soil at half past seven in the morning, and finishes at half past nine p.m. The lava rocks during the night reflect the heat to the plants and grapes. It’s a greenhouse without plastic on top.

“The most popular wine for foreigners are Frei Gigante and the Terras de Lava rosé,” he said. “While the locals drink a lot of Ferias Vineyards white.”

  • Terras de Lava is light, refreshing rose made from merlot and syrah
  • Frei Gigante, named after monk who supposedly started planting method, made from arinto dos azores, verdelho and terrantez de pico – yellow in color, stainless steel, high acidity finish, tropical and citrus with full mouth
  • Ferias Vineyards White