Biscoitos is the pounding heart of the Azorean wine tradition, or at least this is where the tradition has been kept alive in the rocky surroundings of the north side of Terceira. The wines of Terceira; Vinho de Cheiro and Verdelho, of which the latter is said to be the best, are made possible by clever and hard work of the wine families of the island. The volcanic landscape has a abundance of rocks and it couldn’t be farmed. On top of that the salty winds in the middle of the Atlantic created the need to protect the crops from being burned away.
The first settlers designed little square fields, sheltered by rock walls to protect the vines from these winds. The squares were filled with stones and pebbles, leaving pot holes to plant the grapes. You can imagine the intensive labour to cultivate the rough coastline, digging out and placing rocks, field after field until a squared pattern decorates the rocky hills.
During the summer the farmer puts little sticks under the vines so the grapes dangle just above the volcanic rock. During the day the rocks will collect the heat only to gently release it during the night, giving warmth to the sugary Verdelho grape to give its flavour to her wine. It is said that during bad weather the winds from the sea burn the grapes and this is the third element to give the distinctive taste to the wine of Biscoitos.
Across the the street from where we live there is the wine museum, run by the parents of one of our friends. The Brum family is well know for their rich history and now-a-days they play a vital role in keeping the wine landscape alive. The museum gives a good idea about the unique way of wine making. Make sure to try (and buy) the sweet dessert wine they do, we reckon it is the best.
The protected wine area of Biscoitos is enjoyed best by foot. There is a walking trail that leads you along the allotments and kitchen gardens, past the rocky coastline with the remains of long gone defence works and then straight through fields of stone enclosures (“curraletas”). The coast offers a good detour. naturally the swimming pools on the beach of Biscoitos are famous and the coastal landscape is definitely one of a kind.
As you follow the path, respecting the plants and the farmers land, you can see from up close the labour that comes with the Azorean wine. Along the way you will find adega’s, wine houses that sometimes will sell their wine. Many family wineries still make vinho de Cheiro (wine of scent). This light (10%) and sour wine is mostly made for the festivities of the Holy Spirit or one of the other many local traditions the island is known for.
When you visit the Azores you must try their Wine on the Rocks.