Portugal’s Douro Valley, located in the northern part of the country, is revered as the home of Port, the nation’s most famous wine. While sweet, fortified wines are the hallmark of the Douro Valley, over the past thirty years, there has been a renewed emphasis on creating international-class table wines as well.
Over 80 different grape varietals can be found in the Douro Valley, but by far, the most popular varietals include Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinta Barroca and Tinta Cao. These grapes can be blended together to form Port wines, or they can be used alone to form Tinto Douro (full-bodied reds) or Douro Branco (light-bodied white wines).
In addition, three international varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer – are grown in the Douro Valley. Currently, Douro Valley’s wine production is almost evenly split between Port and non-fortified table wines.
The defining geographic characteristic of the Douro Valley is the Douro River, which flows westward to the Atlantic Ocean from Spain (where it is known as the Duero River). Given the mountainous terrain along the Douro Valley, vineyards have been established along the steep slopes within the valley, creating a system of terraced vineyards that rise up from the river. Tributaries flowing out of the Douro give rise to vineyards along narrow rocky slopes. UNESCO has named the Douro Valley a World Heritage site.
In terms of climate, the Douro Valley is best characterized as hot and continental. There are three major sub-zones within the Douro Valley: Douro Superior (sometimes called Alto Douro), Cima Corgo (home to the very high-end Ports) and Baixo Corgo (Lower Corgo), which is home to the region’s table wines.
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