Analysis and definition of potential new areas for viticulture in the Azores (Portugal)
Abstract. Vineyards in the Azores have been traditionally settled on lava field terroirs but the practical limitations of mechanization and high demand on man labor imposed by the typical micro parcel structure of these vineyards contradict the sustainability of these areas for wine production, except under government policies of heavy financial support. Besides the traditional vineyards there are significant areas in some of the islands whose soils, climate and physiographic characteristics suggest a potential for wine production that deserves to be the object of an assessment, with a view to the development of new vineyard areas offering conditions for better management and sustainability.
The landscape zoning approach for the present study was based in a geographic information system (GIS) analysis incorporating factors related to climate, topography and soils. Three thermal intervals referred to climate maturity groups were defined and combined with a single slope interval of 0–15 % to exclude the landscape units above this limit. Over this resulting composite grid, the soils were then selectively cartographed through the exclusion of the soil units not fulfilling the suitability criteria.
The results show that the thermal interval of warmer conditions, well represented in the traditional terroir of Pico island, has practically no expression in the other islands. However, for the intermediate and the cooler classes, we could map areas of 5611 and 18 115 ha respectively, fulfilling the defined soils and slope criteria, indicating thus the existence of some landscapes in the studied islands revealing adequate potential for future development of viticulture, although certainly demanding a good judgment on the better grape varieties to be adapted to those climatic conditions.