The Azores (Acores in Portuguese) are a volcanic archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean, located approximately 1000 miles (1600km) west of Portugal. It is far from being the most famous region in the country, and the wine industry here mainly relies on local consumption. Verdelho is the mainstay of viticulture on the Azores, although Arinto, Fernao Pires and Terrantez (Folgosao) are also grown on the islands.
The nine islands that make up the Azores are an autonomous region of Portugal, and are covered by the Acores VR (Vinho Regional) title, Portugal's equivalent of IGP or PGI. Three of the islands have their own independent IPR (Indicacao de Proveniencia Regulamentada) denomination: Biscoitos, Gracisoa and Pico, where the famous 7715ft (2350m) Monte Pico stratovolcano rises out of the ocean.
As might be expected from a sub-tropical wine region (the islands straddle the 38th parallel) with an oceanic climate, winemaking traditions lean strongly towards fortified wine styles. With low diurnal temperature variation and equally low seasonal distinctions (the average January high of 16C/60F rises only slightly to 25C/76F in August), the Azorean climate makes it hard to achieve full phenolic ripeness in wine grapes without losing acidity and freshness. Fortification has proven a popular remedy to the viticultural challenges faced by the islands' wine producers. Portugal's most famous island, Madeira, lies roughly 700 miles (1125km) southeast of Pico Island and has set the style for Azorean wine.
Approximately 250,000 people live on the Azores, more than half on Sao Miguel, the largest of the nine main islands. The smallest island, Corvo, supports a population of less than 500 on its seven square miles, and produces no wine. Corvo is separated from Santa Maria, the most easterly of the islands, by 375 miles (600km) and lies almost as close to the American continent as it does to Europe. From the islands between these two extremities comes almost all Azores wines.