The Douro region in northern Portugal is of course famous for its Port wine, owing its name to the winding Douro River that traverses from east to west, flowing into the Atlantic Ocean in Oporto. This area features a rugged terrain with diverse terroirs and altitudes. Its vineyards, perched on steep, arid slopes and narrow rocky terraces alongside the river and its tributaries, offer a UNESCO World Heritage landscape akin to Austria's Wachau wine region.

Douro also owes its fame to its array of indigenous grape varieties. Red varieties such as Sousão and Tinta Amarela (Trincadeira), alongside white counterparts like Malvasia Fina, Moscatel, Rabigato, Gouveio, and Viosinho, give Douro wines a unique fingerprint. Notable grapes like Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cao, Touriga Franca, and Touriga Nacional play pivotal roles, especially in Port production.

Presently, produers from Douro also make esteemed and high quality red wines from its diverse native grape varieties. The region's diversity and indigenous varietals underscore give these wines worldwide fame.

All wines in Douro

History of wines from Douro

Historically, the Douro River played a central role in the possibilities of winemaking in the Douro region. Since the 17th century, it has been integral to fortified wine production along its steep banks.

Port wines were transported from the vineyards downstream in Rabelo boats and aged in Vila Nova de Gaia's cellars in Oporto, a practice that endures. A visit to Oporto and the vineyards upstream will take you back in time.

The grapes of Douro wines

In the Douro Valley the vineyards contain more than 80 grape varieties, sometimes more than 20 types within a single plot.

Principal varietals include Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinto Cao, and Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo). Of them, Touriga Franca is the most often planted variety, while Touriga Nacional is considered to be part of the highest quality wines. Additionally, several international grape types like Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc are used.

The terroir of Douro wines

The Douro Valley's terroir is a blend of altitude, sun exposure, wind, soil richness, and water access, of the Douro river. It is divided into Baixo Corgo, Cima Corgo, and Douro Superior, each with unique climates.

Baixo Corgo, to the west, receives ample rain, yielding lighter wines. Douro Superior is situated inland and hot, boasts terraced vineyards, with extreme conditions. Cima Corgo, home to Pinhão, is the heart of Douro, producing high-end Ports. Its steep vineyards results in varied ripening due to the river's influence or altitude, often needing multiple harvests, extending the total harvest time.

The region hosts famous historic vineyards like Fonseca's estates—Cruzeiro, Santo António, and Panascal.

Classifications of wines from Douro

Tinto Douro
Tinto Douro, renowned among the esteemed Douro Reds, is characterized by its full-bodied composition. Within the Douro region, a plethora of indigenous grape varieties contribute to its distinctive profile, including Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), and Tinta Cão. Noteworthy is the increasing prevalence of dry "tinto" blends within contemporary viticultural practices.

Douro Blanco
Douro Branco wines are delicate white wines characterized by their light body and refreshing qualities. While they offer minimal fruity flavors, they provide a unique and complex drinking experience. They include the varieties such as Rabigato, Viosinho, Gouveio, and Folgazão, may be slightly challenging to locate due to their limited availability.

Wine Styles by Aging
Various wine styles are produced in this region, bearing names akin to other Denominaciones in Spain. Joven or Barrica are wines that undergo limited aging, with true Joven wines receiving no aging, while Barrica varieties spend approximately 4 months in oak barrels. Crianza wines mature for a minimum of 12 months, with at least 24 months of aging before release. Reserva, is the classification for wines that are aged for 36 months, including a minimum of 12 months in oak barrels, and Gran Reserva, are aged for 60 months, with at least 24 months spent in oak barrels.

What is a vintage port?

Vintage Port stands as the highest level of port craftsmanship, sourced exclusively from grapes of a designated vintage year, constituting roughly two percent of total port production. Each port house decides independently based on quality, averaging about three times per decade. Decisions of declaring port to be a vintage port carry significant weight as to maintain the industry's reputation. Typically aged for a maximum of two and a half years in barrels, Vintage Ports necessitate further bottle aging of ten to forty years for showing their best quaility.

Single Quinta Vintage Ports derive from a solitary estate, distinct from other ports sourced from multiple estates (quintas).

What is a tawny port?

In the hierarchy of Ports, vintage Port reigns as the 'king', while tawny Port holds the esteemed title of 'queen', sharing in the glory at the pinnacle. Tawnies may be bottled with an indication of age: 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 years old. The age designations are obviously approximations, and all wines have to be submitted for tasting by the IVDP for approval. 

What is a Colheita port?

Colheita, translating to 'harvest' in Portuguese, denotes a wine originating from a single year, undergoing a minimum seven-year aging process in wooden casks before bottling. During this maturation, the wine progressively acquires characteristics akin to those of a tawny Port. While many colheitas undergo extended aging periods, ranging from 50 to 100 years, they typically bear two dates on their labels: the year of harvest and the year of bottling. The latter holds significance, as colheitas generally do not improve significantly once bottled, although they exhibit a propensity for sustained quality due to their prolonged aging in wood.

What is a Ruby Port?

Ruby port is your most basic and least expensive port. Aged for about two years in large oak casks, they are meant to be consumed young and offer a blend of quality red grapes from various vintages.

What is an LBV port?

Late-Bottled Vintage Port, derived from a single-vintage Ruby Port, undergoes up to six years of barrel aging. Sweet in style with moderate acidity and tighter tannins, LBVs are a popular choice.

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