I know I said last week I really want to go to New Zealand. Well here’s another place I’d love to go: the Douro Valley. Given I’m about a two hour flight away I’ve got no excuse really!
Dominated towards the west coast by the historic (and seriously rainy) port city of Oporto, the Douro snakes west to east through the steep mountain ranges and hot arid plains of Portugal, until it hits the Spanish border and becomes the Duero.
It’s up high on those steep hills that most of the quintas are planted to get the grapes for Ports. They built the villages and the vineyards high up to avoid getting mullered by the river mosquitos. Downside is it’s pretty bloody hard to harvest. Upside is that you get very unique conditions along the valley for growing heavy flavoured grapes. And you don’t get bitten by mossies!
Quick recap on how Port is made. You partially ferment grapes so you keep some sugar in the wine, get a little bit of alcohol, and then extract loads of flavour and colour by stomping on the grapes in big stone troughs called lagars. This stamping still goes on, done to music, sounds like a laugh! Anyway, then you add a brandy like grape spirit which raises the alcohol level and kills off the yeast stopping anymore sugar from fermenting.
This Port is then shipped (used to be with old Viking style ships, now usually trucked) down to the coast to a place called Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side of the river to Oporto. It’s here the Port sits to age or to be prepared to be sent out to the shelves.
So you’ve got amazing natural beauty, sunshine (well maybe not Oporto), a beautiful old trading city, and lots and lots of gorgeous Port!
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