Welcome to Douro Valley
Welcome to Douro Valley, land of the best Portuguese wines. Enchanted valleys, exclusive wineries, wonderful boat tours and above all, the terroir of Port Wine.
Douro wine region
Douro is the oldest wine region in the world.
Here we produce wines before the roman invasion. More than 2000 years.
The region is constituted by three sub-regions along Douro river. From west to east, Baixo-Corgo near Marão, Cima-Corgo and Douro Superior.
The wines are different in this three sub-regions. More light and fresh in Baixo-Corgo until very concentrated and with greater potential for aging in Douro Superior.
Cima-Corgo, where I live, is the heart of Douro Valley and where the big and famous names of Port wine are settled.
To increase the complexity of the wines is the nature of the landscape. Great altitude differences. Mountains with inclinations bigger than 30% falling into Douro river and their tributaries. Various shades and solar exposures.
The soil of Douro is mainly shale which is wonderful for the vines. With our climate this stone allows the vine to penetrate deep to absorb water and nutrients.
The micro-porosity of the shale gives the rock the capacity to keep water. That, in some cases is enough to maintain the vines in very dry years.
The other good characteristic of shale is that she absorb the heat during the day and release that during the cold nights of Douro Valley.
Protected from the ocean by two mountains, Marão and Montemuro, the climate is cold during the winter and extremely hot during the summer.
The precipitation is mainly during the winter with annual values between 1200mm in Fontes (west side) to 380mm in Barca d’Alva (east side near the border of Spain).
Demarcation of Douro wine region
The demarcation of Douro wine region was made in 1756, seventeenth century, the oldest in the world.
The demarcation was a response of our Prime Minister, Marques de Pombal, to the lack of rules and degradation of wine quality.
Kopke was the first wine trader to settle in Porto in 1638. Then 30 years latter Warre’s, Croft and Taylors. In this more than 100 years between Kopke and the demarcation of the region many thing happened in Douro Valley, and in the majority of the cases, in the wrong direction.
After this event and until now the Douro suffered a series of periods of apogee and decline with more or less acute crises.
The first focus of phylloxera appeared in 1863 in Cima Corgo sub-region.
It was like a bomb in the region. Everybody was living around the vines and wines. Farmers and families bankruptcy, forced emigration, abandonment of lands, poverty, hunger.
The solution to phylloxera disease did not appear. In some cases the remedy was worst than the disease. Finally, after some years of catastrophe the science solved the problem.
All the vineyards should be replanted with a californian variety immune to the disease. After the rooting of the vines it was necessary to graft the plants with the portuguese varieties.
This take time and money and in many cases people did not have any of them.
The traders of Porto in an attempt to save their own business came to the Douro, bought land and became farmers.
It was a revolution.
Railway line construction
After the storm comes the calm.
Douro Valley is living again. The business is running well. All the region is boiling.
New vineyards, more wine, new markets.
In 1887 the railway line that connects Porto to Spain is finished. The line is now crossing all Douro Valley, opening the door for so many villages that were almost isolated from the rest of the country.
With the train people and goods, specially Port wine, start moving from and for Porto. And from Porto to the world.
Wine region expansion
With the growth of Port wine market and the phylloxera ghost still in the air, the big companies start investing strongly in the new Douro.
The east part of Douro river after Valeira throat was almost inaccessible until the advent of the train.
The navigation was impossible until 1791. A set of huge stones that formed a natural dam was preventing the river to flow well. The government began working on the stone removal and a new frontier was opened.
Despite this great engineering work the navigation in the Douro river remained dangerous.
The most well-known accident was in 1861. The one in which the Baron of Forrester died. D. Antonia Ferreira, known as Ferreirinha, who accompanied him survived.
The train was in fact what allowed the expansion of the Douro region. So in 1907 the Douro Superior was integrated into the oldest wine region in the world.
River dam construction
Between the 60s and 70s the mega construction projects of the 5 dams in the Douro valley would forever change the face of the Douro. With a calmer river it was now possible to sail from Porto to Barca d’Alva, near the border with Spain.
The future of Douro Valley, as we say in Portugal, belongs to God.