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Fenced grape plots distinguish the coast of São Lourenço, on the Azores island of Santa Maria. (Photograph by Mauricio Abreu/Corbis)

Volcano Wine in the Azores

Soon after arriving in the Azores in the 1430s and digging into the rich volcanic soil, Portuguese settlers planted Verdelho wine grapes.

Six centuries on, travelers are increasingly exploring the vineyards of the Azores, especially Pico Island (the archipelago’s second largest) with a landscape so intricate and unusual UNESCO declared it a World Heritage site.

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Grapes harvested on Pico Island (Photograph by Tony Arruza/Alamy)

Five-foot-tall stone walls delineate grape plots (currais) roughly the size of tennis courts. “You drill a hole in the volcanic crust to plant the grapes,” explains Azores wine guru Joaquim Coutinho Costa. “We call it volcano wine.”

Along Pico’s Azores Adeliaçor, a burgeoning wine loop to and from the town of Madalena, tourists enjoy low-key encounters — Napa Valley circa 50 years ago — at spots like Adega da Buraca, with a tasting room and demos of traditional wicker and wool crafts.

During September’s Pico harvest festival (Festas da Vindim), visitors join grape pickers in the fields, and October 25-27, a food fest pairs Azores wines with local cheese, fish, and meats.

This piece, written by Joe Yogerst, appeared in the August/September 2013 issue of Traveler magazine.