With the end of the Portuguese monarchy and the start of the republic in the early 20th century, various other regions began to be demarcated: Madeira, Moscatel de Setúbal, Carcavelos, Dão, Colares and Vinho Verde.

These new attempts at control were not particularly effective – more influential was the political unrest, the First World War, post-war political unrest and a wrecked economy. In 1928, António de Oliveira Salazar became finance minister then prime minister four years later. Practically a dictator for 36 years, he reformed Portuguese viticulture and agriculture, and set up powerful institutions to organize and regulate wine production, sales and marketing. In the Alentejo, vines were ripped out to make way for wheat.

When the Second World War came along, Portugal remained more or less neutral. Markets collapsed, and grape mountains and wine lakes developed. It was to exploit this inexpensive wine source that, in 1942, young entrepreneur Fernando Van Zeller Guedes got together with friends and produced a pink, semi-fizzy, semi-sweet wine intended for export markets – Mateus Rosé. It grew gradually, then boomed, and was joined then by other similar brands, of which Lancers became a great success in America.

Portugal post-war was a land of a multitude of small growers, and part of the function of Salazar’s new institutions was to oversee the formation of co-operatives to rationalize the growers’ work. The first co-ops had already sprung up after phylloxera, but the big co-operative explosion began after the Second World War - over 100 co-operatives were built throughout Portugal during the 50s and 60s.

Life became very difficult for producers who chose not to belong, as the co-ops had fiscal and trading advantages over private competition. Portuguese wine at this time was largely mass-produced, sold mainly to the local market and colonies. There were also a few big wine companies, who themselves bought partly from co-ops. In the 1960s Portugal was also (literally) fighting to keep its colonies, and at home there was goring unrest too. In 1974 came the Revolution, a military coup followed by a period of rule by the far left, complete with nationalization and collectivization of farms, and, for a while, chaos. Order began to return with Portugal’s first free elections in 1976, but the wine market was in a mess.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Youtube