Following our previous post of Portugal Wine & Vineyards’ where we presented the Tejo wine region, I want you to continue to be enchanted by this fine country by helping you to discover the one of the oldest wine regions in the world – Douro Region, also known by Porto wine region

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The Douro valley is one of the most impressive landscapes in the world. Unesco has classify it as a World Heritage site.

"Wine has been produced by traditional landholders in the Alto Douro region for some 2,000 years. Since the 18th century, its main product, port wine, has been world famous for its quality. This long tradition of viticulture has produced a cultural landscape of outstanding beauty that reflects its technological, social and economic evolution. It is an outstanding example of a traditional European wine-producing region, reflecting the evolution of this human activity over time."

Source: UNESCO

The extraordinary stepped terraces hill sided have been carved by generations of men who labored the land to produce the finest liqueur on hearth – the Porto Wines.

The region offers great contrasts, the Douro is marked by the shale mountains ranges of Marão and Montemuro, sheltered from Atlantic winds and creating a Mediterranean and continental climate. The Douro River and its tributaries wend their way at the bottom of vertiginous valleys, forming a landscape of wild and mysterious beauty subject to huge temperature changes from scorching summers to freezing winters.

Itineraries for the tourist are endless, from the famed Port producing “quintas” to the more recently-discovered pre-historic rock-carvings along the banks of the River Côa. There are fine restaurants and good hotels to discover, with boat trips up the Douro and steam-train journeys – all within sight of the countryside’s breathtaking beauty. Regional cuisine is matched well by fabulous Ports and the ever-increasing number of fine Douro wines.

Visiting the region

When visiting the region you will not only discover the magnificent beauty of Douro valley and its river you will also discover its history and its people. To go on a journey to discover this unique place, with unique history and culture you can chose the historic steam train – put it in your diary for this year between 5 June and 9 October 2010; by car, up and down the landscape or in a delightful cruise along the river with service on board and stops on the most charming little places. You will not forget this experience. Please click on the following link http://ow.ly/1i6A0 to view the river tour and for more information about cruises please go to http://ow.ly/1i6Ih

Enology

Today, there are two distinctly different ways of making a Douro wine.  The traditional method, where the grapes are trod in a lagar – a wide, shallow granite tank – produces wines with more colour and tannins which, generally speaking, improves their potential for ageing.  On the other hand, there is a more modern method that has risen in popularity, where the wines are made in stainless steel tanks under controlled temperatures.  The latter wines are more elegant and the aromas of the wine are better preserved.  Some winemakers use both winemaking techniques in order to obtain more complex wines.

There have also been changes in the manner by which these wines are aged before they are bottled.  Traditionally, the wines were aged in large wooden vats although these are being gradually replaced by oak casks or by stainless steel tanks.

Grapes variety

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Vintage, some of the best years

The year 1994: A “monumental” vintage, even more intense than that of 1992, with tannins and fruit concentration. According to James Suckling from the American magazine Wine Spectator, which back in 1997 attributed the highest rating (100 points) to the Taylor and da Fonseca Vintages, as well as first place among the hundred best wines of that year, “Great Vintage Ports as the ones from this year come around only a few times in a lifetime “. A general declaration. Excellent weather, harvests under ideal conditions, with perfect grapes.

The year 1992: Exceptional vintage, with tannins and fruit concentrations.

The year 1991: Excellent vintage, harmonious and rich. Hot and dry summer, with only a few light rains at the beginning of September. Harvest under ideal conditions.

The year 1989: Very hot summer. Premature harvest, under ideal climatic conditions. Some excellent wines.

The year 1987 Very dry winter and spring. Slow maturation. Very hot and dry summer. Premature harvest, at the beginning of September. It was not a Vintage year, because of the low production. Few producers declared production, although there were several single-quinta wines. Very fine and fruity wines.

The year 1985: Wines with a very fine aroma. Exceptional quality. A classic Vintage, with intense aromas and a firm structure in fruit and tannins. Almost all producers declared production. Excellent weather. Cold start to winter, but warm February and March. Some rain in spring and normal temperatures until summer. A very hot June, followed by a normal summer. Harvest under perfect conditions.

(...)

The year 1966: Exceptional quality. Very sweet wines and rich in tannins, some of them sublime, with large aging capacity. Almost all producers declared production. Normal winter, with some rain, but afterwards the weather became dry between April and September. Grapes with a high sugar level, some of them burned. It only rained slightly at the beginning of the harvest (end of September). Scarce production.

The year 1963: A classic Vintage, intense and balanced, deep-purple, fruity and with a large aging capacity. “An apotheosis of Vintage”, as Chantal Lecouty said. Almost all producers declared production. Large production. Normal winter and cold rainy spring, but with good weather when blooming. Hot and dry summer. It only drizzled just before the harvests. During the harvest (end of September), perfect weather, with very hot days and cool nights.

The year 1960: Excellent quality, with sweet and elegant wines, with a good structure and much colour and body. Almost all companies declared production. Very hot year and premature maturity. The harvests started in the second week of September, initially with hot weather but with drizzling rain and cold after 24 September, which harmed the later harvests.

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The year 1935: A classic Vintage, but some producers did not declare production because of having declared it in the previous year (example of a “split Vintage”). A harmonious wine, rich in fruity aromas and rich in tannins. Dry winter, Abnormally cold spring, with some frosts. Late blooming and fructification. Irregular summer, but the harvest occurred under ideal conditions. In 1937, Sandeman bottled its entire 1935 Vintage, simultaneously celebrating the George V (1935) Jubilee and the Coronation of George VI (1937), with two allusive medallions engraved on the bottles.

The Year 1934:Exceptional quality, mature and fruity, despite being a year of unstable weather. Dry winter, rainy spring. Late blooming and fructification. A very hot July. Some rain in September. A late harvest at the beginning of October, with ideal weather.

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The year 1873: Great Vintage, with characteristics of sweetness. Almost all companies declared production. Late harvest, in ideal weather conditions.

The year 1872: Excellent Vintage, with very delicate and rich wines that proved to be better than was initially expected. Many companies declared production and others did not because they chose to give privilege to the previous year.

The year 1870: Great Vintage, very delicate and full-bodied, comparable to that of 1834, according to some traders. All companies declared. Scarce production.

The year 1868: One of the most delicate Vintages of the 19th Century, very rich and strong. A very hot year. In August the grapes appeared to be burnt and the year seemed a write-off. But a light rain that fell before the harvest saved the production. All companies declared production.

The year 1863: A great Vintage, one of the best years in the history of Port, according to Ernest Cockburn. A very hot year until the end of August. All companies declared production.

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For more information and complete list please visit Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto.

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