Douro Valley’s legendary beauty captivates. Te colourful flat-bottomed rabelo boats that used to transport port pipes from lodges to Vila Nova de Gaia at the mouth of the Douro River serve now as ornaments.
Precariously terraced vineyards, twist their way down from the ridges of hills that flank the slow flowing river.
This valley’s vineyards start in the east at the border with Spain and at the Atlantic Ocean covering approximately 40 000 hectares yielding 150 million bottles. The length of the valley is approximately 200 kilometres within Portugal.
The tradition of fine fortified wines dates back to mid 18th century when Marques de Pombal, the prime minister at the time, demarcated the production region well before the French did in Bordeaux, but well after the growers in Tokaji Hungary.
English merchants were the first to blend export wines with alcohol (to fortify) and make them hardy for the long transportation to England. They also left residual sugar in the wine to please sweet-lowing Britons palates.
Since 1990’s traditional port (fortified and sweet) has lost market share to table wines and now young winemakers as well as old, well-established companies like Symington produce more and more table wines based on the famous touriga nacional grape. Still the fortified wine is the region’s winemaking engine and a main draw for wine lovers visiting the city, more precisely Vila Nova de Gaia where port lodges maintain their warehouses and serve their wines to interested parties.
The Douro Valley is sub-divided into three regions – Baixo Corgo (closest to the Atlantic), Cima Corgo ( to the east fo Baixo Corgo, and Douro Superior east of Cima Corgo stretching to the Spanish border.
Most table wine grapes are grown in Baixo – and Cima Corgo, where climatic conditions are more suitable for table wine grapes.
Douro has approximately 250 independent producers, but two companies dominate the market Symington and Taylor – Fladgate. A few French insurance companies are also players.
Chryseaia is a fabulous table wine produced by the Symington family in collaboration with Bruno Prats from Bordeaux. The wine is intense, powerful, exudes ripe fruit aromas, and possesses a silky smooth mid palate.
Nieport is an old well-established port producer and shipper. The Charme, a blend of tinta roriz (tempranillo), touriga franca that has become popular among cognoscenti.
Quinta de Vallado’s 100 per cent touriga nacional offers black olive chocolate, and ample berry aromas.
Quinta do Vale Meao’s touriga nacional is an elegant and refined table wine that can be paired with any flavourful beef dish.
Caves Alianca, owns and operates a vineyard in the valley and produces a fine table wine, as do Van Zeller, Ramos-Pinto, and Quinta de Noss Senhora do Carmo.
I am confident that in a few years you will see more Douro table wines that represent good value and please your palate.