The Wine of the Dead
In the North of Portugal, there is a place where you can taste what we call the wine of the dead.
In the area of Boticas, Vila Real, you can still buy bottles of this unique wine, but the story goes way back to the beginning of the 1800s when Napoleon’s army invaded Portugal in the Peninsular War. In 1807 when the French troops were about to invade the country, people of most villages in the North ran away in fear, carrying what they could and destroying most of what was left behind, including the crops, to make life harder for the invaders. But there was something they couldn’t even think about destroying… the wine! We love our wine in Portugal and it was always part of our basic diet. In the North especially, a wine-producing region, it was too much to carry and too good to leave behind. So the people decided to hide their wine in their lands, buried in the ground, hoping for the best – and that was to be back in a couple of weeks or months. But the war lasted for years and when eventually the population could go back to their lands, they simply forgot about that wine, thinking it was ruined.
One day, while working in the fields, a family unburied the wine and decided to toast with it, to the memory of those difficult times that had passed. They were all shocked when they realised the wine was much better than the one they had buried, after all, it was stored in great conditions of preservation: a dark place with a steady temperature. Of course, everyone went to get their bottles of wine and I can imagine the celebration lasted for weeks!
Since those days, in Boticas, some producers still use the same process and preserve the wine underground, buried, like the dead, and the name comes from that odd process. You can order the Wine of the Dead online or, much better, pay a visit to the lovely village of Boticas and taste it on-site with great stories to go with it.