douro wine

A beginner’s guide to Douro wine

The region of Porto is famous for its gutsy, sweet, fortified reds, but have you ever give its dry wines a second thought?

I’m lucky enough to work in a team of like-minded vinous people, who love all things wine, and so last week we took ourselves off to Portugal, in search of the Douro’s less alcoholic wines…

The Douro, in the northern quarter of Portugal is mostly know for its Port production, but it’s gradually building its reputation for producing crisp, refreshing whites and big, bold reds too.

Now, I know a lot about wine, but Portuguese wine is a completely different ball game. We came across so many grape varieties I’d never even heard of, and some famous international varietals which I had no idea were being cultivated in Portugal!

Although the Port lodges are all down by the coast, to get to the vineyards you need to head over an hour inland, and pass through a mountain range. It’s these hills which keep the bad weather rolling in off the Atlantic from affecting the vineyards. We travelled from one side of the hills with drizzle and mist, to brilliant blue skies on the other side.

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Our first visit was to the vineyards of Quinta do Vallado, situated up a steeply terraced hillside. Difficult to navigate, and we had to take a 4×4, but the view from the top was spectacular.

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Luckily, we timed our visit to be slap bang in the middle of harvest, so we got to see the winery in action. The smell was incredible…

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The Portuguese love themselves some tapas too, so we had various wines to taste alongside a selection of nibbles. The dry muscat being particularly stand-out.

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It was the red wines, though, which really came in their own.

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Touriga Nacional is their prized grape variety, and produces some rich reds, but I was most impressed by the Souzao. Bold and fresh with juicy fruit, alongside tonnes of complex flavour characters such as tobacco, spice and leather. A brilliant combination with the pig cheeks we had at dinner.

Stay tuned for part 2 – coming soon…