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In the north of Portugal, two of the most famous Denominaçâo de Origem Controladas (DOC) reside in the Duriense Vinho Regional (VR). Along the Douro River, flowing east from Spain to the Atlantic Ocean, vintners in Porto and Douro have crafted wines prized the world over for centuries. Adding to the aura of the wine, the rugged terrain in which the grapes are cultivated are the wildest and most mountainous in Portugal. It's no wonder that the wines of the Duriense attract so much attention.

The Wines of Duriense

Porto- This uniquely Portuguese creation has roots in its legacy as a seafaring nation. With coasts on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, Portugal has held a place of high importance in overseas trading. For centuries, part of its exports was wine, which traveled throughout Europe. As explorations continued to require more time, sailors were unhappy with the unlimited shelf life on the wine on board. Therefore, the vintners in Porto added spirits to the barrels in hopes of lengthening its life. They not only succeeded in their goal but also created a new winemaking technique to be repeated and copied for centuries to come. Historically, Porto has been crafted from over 80 different varieties of grapes, many times as a field blend with the winemaker choosing only the grape that ripened best that year. In the last 30-40 years, vintners have focused on Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Cao, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Barroca.

Also adding to the complexity of Porto, there are many different styles based on the source and quality of the wine and the manner in which they are aged. Two main distinctions are Ruby and Tawny. The former is a younger, fruity style, aged at least three years, which results in rich and peppery offerings. The latter is aged much longer than its counterpart, which is indicated on the label, and develops much more complex characteristics of nuts and dried fruits. Delectable as a dessert wine, Porto is often paired with stinky cheese or dark chocolate.
Douro- While the DOC has been recognized solely for supplying the grapes that make Porto, it has recently undergone a bit of a revolution of sorts. While the economic dominance and demand for Porto has held the day, a large group of like-minded winemakers has become determined to display the terroir in unfortified terms. The Douro possesses an impressive amount of indigenous grapes that have been cultivated for generations. These gnarled old vines produce small yields with distinct, rich, and complex characteristics. Wines have been compared to Spain's neighboring Ribera del Duero region, which produces full bodied red wines.

Growing Grapes in Duriense

With portions designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO, the Douro Valley is surely a sight to behold. The rugged mountainous terrain has been carved by the Douro River, forming steep slopes and tight turns around chasms. On those perilous slopes lie the vines that have been producing the region's wines for centuries. Labor-intensive and downright dangerous, workers scale the inclines to cultivate the distinctive grapes of the Duriense. The region is broken down into three sub-regions, the Baizo Corgo, Cima Corgo, and Douro Superior. The first region contains the most vineyards as it receives more rain, cooler temperatures, and remains the most fertile. Cima Corgo is where much of the country's Porto is produces. Lastly, the Douro Superior is the largest of the sub-regions but extreme conditions in the summer and winter has limited the amount of vines being planted. Yet the consistent demand for Porto and the newfound fame of Douro table wines will surely mean more wine production, to the benefit of us all.

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