The Douro is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. It was created in 1756, in the reign of Joseph I, by his prime minister, Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo. This means it was the first wine region in the world to have its own regulation to protect the designation of origin of the wine produced in this region.
It was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001, in the category of Cultural Landscape. The human work done on this landscape is positively immense. To grow olive, almond, fig, and orange trees, and, in the past, cereals, people built terraces which, century after century, were progressively occupied by the main culture of the region: vineyard. Grapes have been cultivated since roman times; the Romans already knew how valuable this fruit was.
Two types of wine are produced in the Douro region: Port wine and Douro wine. The former is a sweet, fortified wine and the latter is a dry wine. The name Port comes from the exportation of this wine by the city of Porto and its fame reaches the four corners of the world. It is a part of the city’s history and of the development of Northern Portugal. Douro wine has always been produced in the region, yet its fame, quality and promotion are a far more recent reality.
But what makes this region’s wines so special? Naturally, the so-called terroir: a set of unique features with a single common thread, the Douro River.
- Climate: due to its location, the region is protected by the Marão and Montemuro mountains against the damp winds of the Atlantic, forming a Mediterranean microclimate. It is divided into three sub-regions: Baixo Corgo, Cima Corgo, and Douro Superior. The first sub-region has a Mediterranean/Atlantic climate, the second a Mediterranean climate, and the third a Mediterranean/continental climate.
- Soil: the Douro valley is predominantly composed of schist, with granite in the higher areas. Since schist is a laminated rock, the roots grow between fissures, allowing them to obtain regular nourishment.
- Exposure and altitude: different altitudes, between 100-650 m, and different exposures allow us to create limitless blends and combinations.
- Grape varieties: the number of native varieties is immense, and they are extremely well-adapted to the terrain.
All of these features are tied to a vineyard and wine culture with a history of many centuries, and there is still a lot to explore and reinvent.