The Douro was long known as the source of port wine , but the region is now also notorious for its fine and full-bodied red and white wines.
Criss-crossed by the twists and turns of the Douro River, the eponymous region is one of the wildest and most mountainous corners of Portugal that also serves up the strongest wines. Along the banks and tributaries, the vines defy gravity on the steep slopes and thrive on slate soil.
Man has left his mark here, literally laying it in stone: the center of the Alto Douro region is famous for the historic, narrow terraced vineyards, which were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001. Today, modern terraces are much wider and supported by the steep slopes.
Join us on a wine tour of the magical Douro region, which the river provides with life and wine.
Douro - The magical river of wine
The Douro is the third longest river on the Iberian Peninsula. In Spain it is called Ribera del Duero and Toro.
The viticulture scenes follow the course of the Douro River from the Spanish border in the east of the country to a point near the town of Mesão Frio , some 90 km east of Porto. Here the mountains of the Serra do Mar ão rise high and protect the region from the powerful influences of the Atlantic Ocean . Rain falls mostly west of the Marão and to some extent in the western part of the Douro wine region. Further upstream, the proportion of rain decreases and at the Spanish border almost desert-like conditions prevail.
The Douro area is divided into three sub-regions from west to east: Baixo Corgo , Cima Corgo and Douro Superior .
The fertile Baixo Corgo near the Serra do Marão is cool and rainy and known as the sub-region with the most vineyards.
Cima Corgo, including the towns of Pinhão , São João da Pesqueira and Tua , is the heart of the production of very high quality wines and is also the source of many non-fortified wines.
The extreme Douro Superior area is very cold in winter while sweltering in summer. The Douro Superior is the largest sub-region of the Douro, although far from everything is planted. If you long for the untouched wilderness, you will find it here.
“Dry” is the new port
The Douro offers a huge variety of local grapes . Many wineries are planted with impressive rugged old vines that produce their fine grapes year after year. Local winemakers produce small batches of powerful, complex wines that are used for both port and non-fortified wines.
For a long time, Portugal only relied on the famous dessert wine Port, but local winemakers have now discovered that their wonderful grapes have much more potential.
This is how heavy and sweet finally became dry. Traditional grape varieties such as Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão, which were previously used for the production of port wine, have now been rediscovered. The result is highly complex, dry wines that will be remembered for a long time and leave many wine lovers bewildered.
Dozens of different grapes are wildly planted and processed here. This is a regional specialty that is mainly observed in old wineries. Modern wineries are careful to separate their vines.
Cultivation of the red-juicy sousão , which is highly acidic and also known as vinhao , has increased recently. Another black grape that is popular here is called Tinta Amarela (also known as Trincadeira).
Among the white grapes, the Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Moscatel, Rabigato and Viosinho varieties are worth mentioning. Some of them are also used for the new generation of dry white wines , which are cultivated on old vineyards at high altitudes.
The best wine route through the Douro Valley
Portugal has many dream holiday destinations, but the Douro Valley is something very special. The magic of the river, the impressive vineyard terraces and the full-bodied wines give the Douro an incomparable aura that is worth at least one visit. Below are some suggestions for a wine route through the magical Douro Valley.
On the route along the viewpoints, the river is crossed from north to south and vice versa. A comprehensive exploration of the entire Douro region can be done well with a rental car. But be careful: the narrow roads in the valley are not for inexperienced drivers, because they run very close to the cliffs.
With the danger on our backs, the river on our backs and the tannins in our mouths, we come to our first stop. On the southern shore of the Atlantic, the Douro River flows through the port of Vila Nova de Gaia , an important place in the history of port wine production.
Vila Nova de Gaia is just across the river from Porto and offers many good opportunities to get acquainted with the Douro wines. In the old wineries you can learn all about the 2000 year old history of the wine trade and the international rise of port wine. Various tastings help the taste buds on the jumps and deepen the impressions of the long wine history on the Douro.
Further inland along the river is the town of Peso da Régua , which is also home to the Museu do Douro . Here, the cultural identity of the Douro Valley is illustrated in various exhibition halls. An integrated restaurant, library archive, reading room and wine bar overlooking the region's namesake, the Douro River, combine tradition and modernity.
Not far away on the south side of the river is Lamego . A beautiful town at the foot of a huge staircase of blue and white tiles - the Azulejos typical of Portugal - which leads to the Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios Sanctuary.
We continue to follow the river bank to the east and soon meet Pinhão . A visit to the train station reveals a lot about the old, traditional winegrowing history, because the detailed azulejos tell a lot of stories.
We move on and enter the international natural park Parque Natural do Douro Internacional in Barca d'Alva . From here, the Douro forms the border between Portugal and Spain. On this stretch the river is constricted by mountain slopes until it reaches the border town where it flows into Portugal.
Up to this point, the Douro Valley wine region is the oldest in the world. Although the river did the preliminary work by digging the deep valleys in the earth, many generations of people created the green terraced vineyards on the slate mountains here. And so the interplay between the power of nature and the hard work of man created this unique landscape, which produces a wine that still delights the soul and palate of wine drinkers all over the world.
about the author
Inara Muradowa is an SEO expert and corporate blogger. In addition to technical search engine optimization and SEO consulting, she actively supports companies with the conception and writing of professional blog posts.