Douro Valley: The Wines from the Gorges
At the tip of Portugal is one of its best kept treasures. As one of Europe’s oldest wine regions, Douro Valley is a scenic getaway that carries Portugal’s signature wines. Here, authentic Port is made as good as it was back in the day, with its superior quality, aroma and flavor withstanding the test of time. Douro Valley also holds the highest wine classification in all of the country, and it is so for good reason.
After all, the valley is a prime source of Portugal’s pride – its ace in the worldwide wine industry.
Port, the pride of Portugal
Considered the most beautiful wine region in the world, Douro Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that produces wine for more than 2,000 years. With its breathtaking landscapes and steep vineyards that overlook the Douro River, this region is indeed a sight to behold. Located in the northeast part of Portugal by the Spanish border, the valley is shielded from the Atlantic winds by the Marao and Montemuro mountains, and has a Mediterranean climate.
A Brush of Douro wine history
As early as the 3rd and 4th century, locals have been harvesting grapes and making wine in Douro Valley. Throughout the Roman occupation, it began to expand as the Romans encouraged the locals to start planting in their own vineyards.
First, they planted olive trees and cereals. In the 12th century, after several different parties have occupied the lands, viticulture in the valley finally started to grow. The vintners established a number of wine estates in the best parts of the valley.
Towards the end of the medieval times, three monasteries influenced the local wine making industry. Most of the vineyards in this region are positioned as terraces along the edges of the valley, looking completely blended into their surroundings. This wine region is the origin of authentic Port, locally known as Vinho do Porto, a high-quality fortified red wine that put Portugal on the map.
Port wine is traditionally made from various grapes native to Douro Valley. These varieties thrive in the hot and dry weather of this wine region. They are also typically small and thick-skinned grapes that produce a concentrated juice. It is aged in wine cellars in varying ways and periods of time to produce Port in different styles. The strong and sweet flavor of Port has given it a reputation as a sought-after dessert wine. It comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties.
Estates in the valley have been producing Port since the 17th century. The first record was found in a document of a wine shipment to Holland in 1675. However, things weren’t working out between the commercial entities established by merchants and the local farmers. The state government had to intervene by regulating production.
By the 18th century, Port became the region’s main product, which directly affected the economy of Portugal. The continent’s widespread wine lifestyle has given Portugal greater opportunities to import Port in Europe. However, Douro Valley was not spared by the Phylloxera infestation that plagued the European wine regions in the late 19th century. The region recovered after grafting American rootstock with local varieties.
Similarly, new planting techniques and methods of production were introduced in the valley. The principal grape varieties in this region included black grapes such as Mourisco Tinto, Bastardo, Tinta Amarella, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, and more. White grape varieties included Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Ravigato, Viosinho, and Donzelinho Branco.
The wineries of the valley
The Quinta Do Vallado is one of the oldest wine estates in the Douro Valley. It was established in 1716 by Dona Antonia Adelaide Ferreira, an iconic winemaker. Her family owns the winery to this day, with their sixth-generation winemakers keeping the business alive and the quality of products up to par. They have 26 hectares of vineyards in their 38-hectare estate. The vines in the winery are over 60 years old, and produce their well-known Red Reserve and Touriga Nacional wines, which are known as some of the best wines to come out of the Douro Valley.
Meanwhile, the Quinta Da Romaneira is one of the largest estates in Douro Valley. It has over 400 hectares of land with 85 hectares of vineyards. Records show that vines have been harvested from this property since the Roman period, but it was only in 2004 that they began to produce their now signature unfortified wines. They yield more than 300,000 bottles of wine per year and their signature product is still the Port. They have one of the most modern wine cellars in the area as well.
Douro Valley holds some of the most majestic and hospitable wine estates in the world. Even when you’re too far away, a good gulp of Port should bring you closer to the lush lands of Portugal. If you’re based in Asia, you can head on over to Singapore and visit the country’s premier wine cellar – Singapore Wine Vault. The vault offers some of the most renowned wines from Douro Valley.