Tourism in Portugal’s Algarve has had both a negative and positive effect on Algarve wineries. Being initially a “sun and beach” destination ramping up in the 1970s the rush for profits and the development of the Algarvian economy focused on sun and beach! Build, build and build more and who cared if vineyard land was worth more to sell in those times than to produce wine or grow grapes.
The sun and beach mentality is changing in the Algarve and for that matter throughout Portugal so that touristic development goes beyond the high altar of sun and beach and folds into that or even discards it in favour of a hybrid form of touristic development giving the opportunity for wine, gastronomy and culture to symbiotically nourish each other. Some have given this approach a name of “wine tourism” but is it wine that leads the way or is it culture or gastronomy?
In the 21st century as the power of the co-operatives declined a new breed of winemakers emerged and perhaps their role is rescuing what otherwise might have been destroyed. A few years ago in the Rhone a small area called Condrieu produced some globally renowned Syrah and Viognier was threatened by a condo development. Fortunately, a national outrage prevented the condo development from gobbling up vineyards.
Sara Silva, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Porto last February, is the President of the CVA (Comissão Vitivinicola do Algarve) Algarve and she points out, “The Algarve lives and breathes tourism. The wines of the Algarve and Algarve tourism need to go hand in hand offering tourists and residents (both Portuguese and foreign) an authentic experience that makes it stand out and provides an alternative to ‘sun and beach’.”
I am sure Ms. Silva would like Algarve wines to take the world by storm but she realizes the small Algarvian volume may make that difficult so being pragmatic local may be the first step to continue the growth of Algarvian wines. Ms. Silva states, “The Algarve’s hotels and restaurants should give priority to the wines of the Algarve in order to enrich people’s gastronomic experience by combining the region’s excellent wines with its excellent cuisine.”