Madeira Wine
Madeira Wine


The history of Madeira Island


The archipelago of Madeira had already been referred on Italian and Spaniard maps since 1351. It was then in 1419, by order of Henry the Navigator, that João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira, set sail to conquer the archipelago, and bring it under Portuguese rule. Since the fifteenth century, Madeira has played a decisive role in the history of great discoveries and achievements of Portugal and became a major port in trade routes of the Atlantic. It was also in Madeira and Porto Santo, that Christopher Columbus began the voyage to the "discovery" of America.

From the year1425 onward, after splitting the island in captaincies, it was noted as a time of great economic prosperity in Funchal, Machico and Porto Santo. At that time wheat was the dominant product being cultivated and managed by about 150 farms. This product was transported mainly to the European continent, where they would sell more than 3,000 "moios" (old weight unit). To facilitate business, Portuguese and Genoese Trade Houses were built.

At the end of the fifteenth century, agriculture underwent great changes - the cultivation of sugar cane was very significant and sugar, know as "white gold" at the time, began to be exported to Europe. Slaves from Portuguese colonies in Africa worked hard in the sugar cane fields. The first mechanical processing plant, powered by water, was designed by Diogo Madeira Teives and increased the production of sugar. In 1506 the production and processing reached a volume of over 230,000 "arrobas" (about 4 million pounds) per year. Arrobas are was an old Portuguese weight unit of approximately 32 lbs.

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