The Pico Island Vineyard Culture is an outstanding example of farming practices in a challenging environment

Pico Island is one of nine volcanic islands in the Azores Archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. The island contains spectacular evidence of grape-growing and wine-making, with an imposing pattern of orderly walls running parallel to the rocky coastline around its northern and western edges. The stone walls form thousands of small, contiguous plots built to protect crops from wind and salt spray. Vines were and continue to be planted within the small and soilless plots, called currais.

Header photo of Pico Island © Associacao de Turismo dos Aores – VisitAzores

The landscape of the Pico Island vineyard culture has evolved over 500 years and is exceptionally well-preserved. The spectacular coastal setting of the viniculture landscape sits at the foothills of Pico Mountain, a volcano that dominates the topography of the island. The material used to construct the currais and buildings is largely composed of local, irregular, weatherworn, black basalt rocks. The use of this dominant material type is a major element of the authenticity of the cultural landscape.

Pico vineyard landscape near Criaçao Velha © VincentBresmal VisitAzores
Vineyard landscape near Criaçao Velha © VincentBresmal Turismo Açores VisitAzores – VisitAzores

Begun in the 15th century, wine production on Pico Island reached its peak in the 19th century and then gradually declined due to plant disease and desertification (loss of soil and reduced rainfall). However, a low level of grape vine growing and high-quality wine production continues to be undertaken and expanded, especially around the village of Criação Velha. Wine production is managed under a regime designed to ensure economic viability and sustainability as well as to retain traditional farming techniques.

 

Pico Island Vine © Floreesha VisitAzores
Vine © Floreesha – Associacao de Turismo dos Acores – VisitAzores

 

World Heritage

Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2004.

The Pico Island landscape reflects a unique response to viniculture on a small volcanic island that has been evolving since the arrival of the first settlers in the 15th century. The extraordinarily beautiful human-made landscape of small, stone walled fields is a testimony to generations of small-scale farmers who, in a hostile environment, created a sustainable living and much-valued wine.

Pico island © Associacao de Turismo dos Aores
Pico island © Associacao de Turismo dos Aores

SOURCES & CREDITS
All photos courtesy of Associacao de Turismo dos Acores (VisitAzores) and the respective photographers
Text source UNESCO (CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0)