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    Although the Douro region is one of the most Portuguese of the wine territories, the famous port or port wine as it was once called from the Douro valley is almost entirely due to the inventiveness of the English.


    Port or porto derives its name from the harbour town of Porto, the second city of Portugal. Porto is situated close to Vila Nova de Gaia where most port is stored, bottled, and traded.

    Ideal circumstances

    The valley of the Alto-Douro is probably the most picturesque wine area anywhere in the world. The vineyards start about 80 km (50 miles) to the east of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia and they are protected by the 1,400 metre high Marao mountain against the worst influences of a maritime climate.

    The soil is chiefly comprised of shale and folds of crumbled basalt which force the vines to send down long roots in search of nutrients and water. The summers are extremely warm and dry with bitingly cold and very wet winters. To prevent erosion and make it easier to tend the vines, the area is widely terraced. Despite this everything is hard manual work. That these working conditions are difficult is underscored by the fact that only 40,000 hectares of the permitted 250,000 hectares are actually planted with vines.

    The traditional varieties of grape for making white port are Arinto, Boal Cachudo, Cercial, Malvasia Fina, Samarrinho, and Verdelho. Red port is made from a choice that includes Bastardo, Malvasia, Tinto Mourisco, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Periquita, and Tinta Barroca. This wide variety helps in part explain the wide differences between different ports.

    The same exciting ritual takes place in about mid September of each year. Long lines of grape-pickers

    enter the quintas or vineyards to pick the ripe grapes, terrace by terrace. After picking, the grapes are collected in huge baskets to be brought to the press some tens of kilometres away. Today most port-making companies use pneumatic presses but some of the smaller companies still utilise the traditional huge but low granite tubs or lagares, in which the family, pickers, and friends press the grapes with their bare feet or with special shoes. This scene out of folklore is often done to music and attracts scores of tourists.

    During vinification, which nowadays happens in stainless steel tanks, wine alcohol is added during fermentation at the rate of 10 litres per 45 litres of fermenting must. The new port is then transferred to wooden casks and left to rest for several months.

    After this the casks are transferred to Vila Nova de Gaia, where they are stored to mature in enormous cellars or lodges (armazens). More recently some port is now also left in the Douro valley to mature.

     The maturing process takes a minimum of two years. During the maturing in the huge 550 litre casks known as pipas the wine changes colour from purple/red to tan and the immature wine acquires specific character and bouquet.

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  • Rio Douro Wine

     The Rio Douro (golden river) lends its name to the north-eastern part of Portugal. This wine-growing territory has been known for its wines for more than 2,000 years, especially for the very

    special vinho do Porto, which is better known as port or port wine.Whilst port has been made here for centuries it seems as if far more table wines are now also being made in the Douro valley. In recent years indeed there has been more unfortified wine produced than port. The vineyards of the Upper Douro start about 62 miles (100 km inland of the harbour town of Porto. The majority of them are sited on hills of basalt and granite. The climate is fairly dry of the semi-continental type with fairly big temperature ranges between the hot summers and cold winters.

    Good quality red and white wines are produced here, varying in style depending on the variety of grapes used and the wishes of the wine-maker. The choice for white wines is made from Malvasia Pina, Rabigato, Viosinho, Donzelinho, Verdelho, and many others. The red wine grapes are Bastardo, Mourisco Tinto, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Prancisca, Touriga Nacional, and Tinto cao. Although the different types of Douro wine vary widely there has been an enormous leap forward in their quality in recent decades. Douro Branco is a fresh lively and sometimes very aromatic wine with a delicate and refined taste. It is certainly not a heavy wine. This wine must be at least 11 % alcohol and it is required to have aged for at least nine months in the bottle before being sold. Drinking temperature is 50- 53.6°F (10- 12°C) .

    Douro Tinto exists in many styles. Some of them are young, fruity, almost playful, while others are intentionally more robust and powerful. This depends on the grapes used, method of vinification, and length of cask maturing that has been undergone. All Douro reds must be at least eighteen months old before they may be sold and contain at least 11 % alcohol. Whichever Douro you may choose, they are always surprisingly good value for money.

    The modern style wines are very colourful and fruity.They are velvet smooth, juicy, and very tasty. The traditional style wines are fairly dark, very aromatic, often somewhat rustic with hints of terroir including granite. Drinking temperature is 53.6-57.2°F (12- 14°C ) for the modern-style wines and 57.2- 62.6°F (14-17°C) for the traditional ones.

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