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Douro wines are born from the steep slopes of the mountains along the Douro River and its tributaries. The Douro demarcated region is the oldest region in Portugal and the world to be regulated and geographically delimited. In 1756, the demarcation regulated the production of fortified wine – Port wine. Nowadays, it covers not only the production of Port Wine but also the production of DOC - Controlled Designation of Origin, Port and Douro wines. It's divided into three subregions: Baixo Corgo, Cima Corgo and Douro Superior, for a total of 250 thousand hectares.
Viticulture and wine production in the Douro region goes back to Roman times. However, it was in the 17th century that Douro wine started being exported more intensively to England and that Port wine originated, as a fortified wine.
The landscape of the Douro Valley combines the colossal vastness of nature with the continuous human influence to shape the landscape to suit their agricultural needs. The vineyard's framing in the mountain landscape is the result of the close relationship between enterprising humans and the wine bearing land. The region's geography and topography minimise the influence of Atlantic winds.
Mountain viticulture on terraces makes vineyard work easier and protects the poor schist soils from natural erosion.
The Douro Valley, as well Douro wines, mirror the courage and determination of mankind. Where, in the face of limited resources and unfavourable conditions, persistence prevails. The Douro Valley is considered World Heritage by UNESCO for its rich culture, heritage, and landscape as a wine-growing region.
In addition to the overwhelming landscape, old Douro vines and ancient noble grape varieties have been handed down from the past. Although there is no classification system for old vines, we can consider the vines in a vineyard over 45 years old as being old vines. For the Douro wine landscape, an old vine vineyard is understood to have a highly dense and diverse mixture of grape varieties.
The wines made from old vines are a journey into the past. Resulting in more than 20 different grape varieties, such as the Olgas White and Red wines and the Canivéis. They are wines for everyday consumption, named to contrast them with celebration wines, which are more concentrated, alcoholic, and structured.
The Douro's vineyards are classified within a complex system into 6 categories from A to F, according to their fitness to produce quality Port wine and the respective Benefício (sales) permit. The system grades according to factors such as altitude, productivity, grape varieties, slopes, planting density, age of the vines, etc. A vineyard at an altitude of 700 m, for example, has an unfavourable score for the production of Port wine, but is ideal for the production of white wines with a lot of acidity and freshness, as is the case with Maçanita White.
Douro is currently experiencing heightened recognition for the quality of its wines, driven by the sector's companies. Very often important distinctions, ratings and prizes are granted to award-winning Douro wines. Despite the immensity of the landscape, the Douro's vineyards are cultivated in small farms, with around 40,000 owners and an average area of 1.17 hectares.
Douro red wines are concentrated and well-structured, rich in colour and aromas, and age well. This is due to poor soils, reduced water availability, very harsh winters and summers with moderately high temperatures that result in good maturations. The predominantly schist soils favour these characteristics, during the day the schist retains the heat that gradually dissipates during the night, thus reducing the daily thermal variation ranges in the summer.
Douro white wines are generally warm and aromatic. The vineyards at altitude are mainly for white grape varieties, where fresher musts and the best Douro whites are obtained. Vineyards at altitude with greater thermal range and grape varieties with good acidity, such as Arinto and Folgasão, add to the freshness of white wines. The aromatic character is mainly due to the nature of the Douro Valley grape varieties, such as Gouveio, Viosinho, and Códega de Larinho.
Douro rose wines are very elegant. The grape varieties on which Douro rose wines are based are very aromatic and fresh when harvested at ideal ripeness. The low fermentation temperatures favour the production of an elegant and aromatic rose wine profile.
The Douro Valley’s grape varieties are very diverse, with around 70 official red varieties and 50 white varieties.
Currently, the most planted red grape varieties are Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca, and Tinto Cão. The white grape varieties in greatest demand for new plantations are Viosinho, Gouveio, Códega, Donzelinho and Malvasia Fina.
Douro wines are extremely diverse, due to the number of grape varieties, orientation and exposure angles, the slope, soil and climate characteristics. We believe that there is not one Douro, there are several Douros.
Of the three subregions, the Douro Superior has the most hours of sunshine per year, but the lowest average annual temperature and the lowest precipitation. Baixo Corgo has the highest rainfall but the fewest hours of sunshine. Whereas Cima Corgo has an overall average value of precipitation and number of sun hours when compared with the other subregions, but a higher value of annual average temperature.
From the 17th century to the 1950s, the Douro Valley was synonymous with Port Wine. The reality of the modern Douro has changed, and the table wine and Port wine production ratio is now 50/50. Other products such as sparkling, Moscatel do Douro, and late harvest wines are also of high quality in the region, but their production is residual.
Douro wines are a global product nowadays. The recognition of Port wine and, more recently, the highly awarded Douro wines distinguished by the sector's publications and opinion makers have helped internationalise Douro wines.
You can buy Douro wines from your sofa, while having lunch on a terrace, or in the office from our online shop António Maçanita Winemaker. Enjoy!