On the coast, northwest of Lisbon, there is a small D.O.C. (Denominação de Origem Controlada) called Colares. It is one of Portugal’s most ancient areas and it is entirely planted on sand. When phylloxera destroyed most of Europe’s vines in the 19th century, it didn’t destroy Colares. Their vines are all original, ungrafted, and, for the most part, very old.
Colares is also one of the most endangered wine regions in the world. It has become the go-to vacation spot for affluent Lisboans so the land has become much more valuable as beachfront property than vineyard land. There are only 23 hectares left. The production of wines allowed to use the Colares designation is around 4,500 bottles… quite a change from a century ago when there were thousands of hectares of vines and, as one of the only regions left with vineyards, their reputation soared. They were called “The Bordeaux of Portugal” and experienced a brief, yet intense, international flowering of interest but as Europe’s vineyards came back on line and Portugal descended into a nearly eighty years of strife, civil war, and dictatorship, the fortunes of Colares faded.
The red grape in Colares is called Ramisco, the white is Malvasia. Ramisco is grown nowhere else, and same goes for this breed of Malvasia (although we find its cousin in the Douro and other parts of Portugal).