Douro Valley is the valley carved in the mountains by the river with the same name. In spite of the hard rocky terrain the proverbial Portuguese tenacity turned this area, generations ago, in a unique type of vineyard: the home of the exquisite Port Wine.
The Port Wine home starts one hundred kilometers east of Porto, near the Spanish border. The area covers almost 250.000 ha, of which 40.000 are destined for vineyards.
The vineyards are planted along abrupt terrain over spectacular hills and steep valleys from where the eyes can admire the course of Douro River.
Generations of men and women built these terraces in the most unfriendly environment: extremely hot and dry summers and harsh wet winters. In spite of, or maybe because of this combination of climates, here was born one of the most appreciated wines in the world: Port Wine.
The main species of grape which grows in the area is used as much for the table wines as it is for making the Port. These grapes are represented by 90 different types; of which the best are Touriga Nacional, Touriga Roriz, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina and Viosinho.
The Port Wine as we know it now has evolved in the first part of the 18th century when brandy was added in the wine to ensure the stability of the transport to the destination. The result was 20 degrees of alcohol added to Port Wine’s personality.
We can say that Port is more veritas than vino. The secret is that during the process “aguardente”- a local strong grape brandy with 77 degrees alcohol strength is added in the young wine. The process stops the fermentation and the transformation of sugar into alcohol.
Port Wine is not like any other wine. It is rich and scented with a high content of alcohol and sugar. For centuries the people from Douro have sold impressive quantities of Port to the European nobility. In the 17th century due to the political rivalry between England and France, the English replaced the French wines with the Port.
The Port Wine was a very common presence in the Victorian society and all over the world the Victorian literature spread the name of this wine and the ritual of serving it as a social drink. A special label of noblesse was stamped on the name of Port Wine and that stamp ensured its popularity.
The trend set then made Port become one of the most sought after table wines in Europe and spread its name all over the world.